BENNINGTON >> A former math teacher at the Bennington School for Girls is accused of repeatedly raping a student who he was later appointed respite care of by the state of New Hampshire.
Morris David Nelson, 54, of Bennington, pleaded not guilty Friday in Vermont Superior Court to aggravated repeated sexual assault, sexual assault on a victim under 18 entrusted to the actor's care, and sexual exploitation of a minor. He was ordered held until a future bail hearing.
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Detective Anthony Silvestro, on May 9 a student at the Bennington School for Girls — formerly Bennington Schools Inc.— told a counselor there that Nelson had a relationship with another student. Police spoke to said student, who at the time told them nothing about a relationship.
In early June, police came into contact with her again and this time she said Nelson had sexually assaulted her and that she was afraid of him.
She told police that she attended the Bennington School for Girls for a 14 month period. While there she met Nelson, who worked there as a math teacher. They developed a friendship, but in October things changed. She said Nelson brought her to a concert in New Hampshire but they were not allowed in because they had been drinking alcohol. They went back to a hotel where Nelson raped her. The girl told police she was too intoxicated to do anything about it. The next day, he drove her to a relative's home.
According to the affidavit, the girl is in the care of the New Hampshire Division of Youth, Children, and Families, and that an interstate compact had been reached letting Nelson provide respite care for her. The girl told police she went to live with Nelson because she felt like she had nowhere else to go.
Around Thanksgiving 2015, Nelson told her he had been fired from the school. Police obtained records from the school showing Nelson had been employed there for two stints, one between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 26, 214, and the other between March 30, 2015 and Nov. 19, 2015.
The girl told police that when she would visit her relative out of state, she would get there using transportation provided by the school. Nelson would go too, claiming it was to keep her out of trouble. He would bring her alcohol, cigarettes, and clothing and they would drive around together and go to hotels. She said he would touch her while she was in his vehicle and became angry when she moved to avoid it.
She told police that during a period around Christmas 2015 when Nelson's wife was away on vacation, he raped her repeatedly. It also happened when his wife was around. The girl said she would try to push Nelson away or tell him to stop, but he would overpower her. This behavior became more threatening and controlling and only got worse when she found a job. She was afraid to disclose this to anyone for fear of hurting his family and what he might do to her.
While at the school, he would touch her private areas and that on one occasion he took her to a hotel in North Adams, Mass. where he raped her, she told police.
She did not tell any of this to police the first time she spoke to them because she felt scared, hopeless, and like nothing would come of it. She said Nelson was aware police had questioned her and wanted to know what she had told them.
Police spoke to a friend of the girl's who said on one occasion someone was repeatedly calling and texting her. The friend overheard a male on the other end repeatedly saying he loved her and demanding she say it back to him
Silvestro wrote that Nelson was arrested on June 9. The affidavit does not appear to contain a statement from him.
Ralph Bennett, director of operations for Vermont School for Girls, said school policies strictly prohibit male staff taking female students anywhere alone and that the school had no knowledge of Nelson's alleged activities that fell outside the policy. He said he could not comment further.
In April, another Vermont School for Girls employee, Jacob Dunican, 27, of Bennington, pleaded not guilty to felony counts of sexual assault on a victim under 18 years old, sexual exploitation of a minor, and lewd and lascivious conduct. It was alleged by police that he had sexual conduct with a student at the school. Dunican was a residential counselor there. He was released without bail under conditions and the case remains pending. — Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115