BUFFALO (AP) - A former elementary school teacher in southwest Missouri has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from accusations he molested students, authorities said Tuesday.
Ralph Eugene Moyle, 29, has been charged with two counts of sexual contact with a student by a teacher, three counts of statutory sodomy, and one count each of attempted statutory sodomy and possession of child pornography, according to online court records.
Moyle, a former third-grade teacher at Long Lane Elementary School, was originally charged in April with two counts of child molestation. Those charges were replaced with the new charges filed earlier this month by the Missouri Attorney General's office, which took over the case at the request of the Dallas County court.
Nanci Gonder, spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Koster, said Moyle pleaded not guilty and waived a preliminary hearing during a court appearance Tuesday. She said Moyle has been out on $30,000 bond. She declined further comment because the case is ongoing.
Moyle's lawyer, Dean Price, called Moyle a "very popular teacher" and said he's innocent of the charges. Price said Moyle waived the preliminary hearing "to spare the children from having to testify." He added that the accusations have been "exceedingly stressful" for Moyle and his family.
Price said he would be seeking a jury trial.
"We hope that a trial will shed light on how these kinds of charges could have come up, and we're going to soldier forward." Price said. "These are the people that need effective representation the most because the public is so eager to presume guilt."
A probable cause statement filed in early July in the case said Moyle was accused of inappropriately touching at least three students while they were at school, at a birthday party and at his home, where one of the children spent the night.
According to the probable cause statement, one of the children told authorities that he and Moyle "have secrets that Mr. Moyle said he cannot tell" and the "secrets are "not good.'" Another child said Moyle had fondled him during a sleepover at Moyle's home.
Long Lane is an unincorporated community located about 50 miles northeast of Springfield.