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Trial for former teacher Neal Putnam | Sat, Oct 05 2013 12:00 PM

A former Chula Vista special education teacher was ordered Sept. 25 to stand trial on eight felony counts of sexually abusing a 4-year-old girl who was not his student.

The girl, now 4½ years old, may be the youngest witness ever to testify in San Diego Superior Court, according to the prosecutor. She testified that Loren Grage McDonald, 37, molested her on several occasions.

McDonald once taught at Olympian High School in Chula Vista. Manny Rubio, a spokesperson for the Sweetwater Union High School, said McDonald was terminated in May following his arrest by San Diego Police on May 6.
McDonald was a probationary employee at the time, said Rubio, and the case is not related to his former job. He taught for less than one year.

McDonald was wearing jail clothing as he sat with his attorney Robert Boyce. McDonald’s mother was in the audience.
The 4-year-old girl’s mother sat several feet away from her as her daughter was testifying before Judge David Gill in the preliminary hearing.

The girl was quick to answer questions from Deputy District Attorney Marisa Di Tillio, and said “I forgot” if she didn’t remember the answer. Boyce didn’t ask her any questions.

The girl’s mother, who is not being identified, told the judge her daughter told her about the molestation in late April in a San Diego residence. She said she confronted McDonald and he admitted it.

“He said he would touch her when he read books to her,” said the girl’s mother.

San Diego Police Detective Melissa Matthias testified McDonald admitted to her he had touched the girl inappropriately about 10 times. “He told me he is attracted to young girls 8, 10, and 12,” Matthias said.

Matthias said McDonald had told the girl not to tell anyone about it because “he would go to jail.”

Boyce urged the judge to dismiss a count of attempting to dissuade a witness from reporting a crime, saying the evidence was “weak” and only included that one statement. Boyce also urged dismissal of most of the charges, but Gill denied his requests.

McDonald pleaded not guilty to all counts at the end of the hearing, and Gill set a jury trial for Feb. 3, 2014. The charges include oral copulation and lewd acts upon the girl.

Boyce asked Gill to reduce the $2 million bail, saying it was excessive. Di Tillio opposed the reduction and Gill ordered the bail to remain at $2 million. McDonald is housed at the George Bailey Detention Facility.

If McDonald is convicted on all counts, he could face a maximum sentence of 44 years and eight months in prison, said Di Tillio.

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