News conference on Zachary teacher's child sex arrest turns into spat over investigation
ZACHARY - A news conference to discuss a disturbing child sex case involving a middle school teacher instead turned into a shouting match over how the case was handled.
The drama unfolded at a joint news conference held by the Zachary Police Department and Zachary Community Schools officials Monday morning. The collection of law enforcement and administrators were there to discuss the recent arrest of Northwestern Middle School teacher Ellarea Silva.
Silva is accused of having an illegal, sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student throughout the summer. Investigators say the two exchanged tens of thousands of videos, photos and text messages between their clandestine meet-ups.
However, the actual case was overshadowed by the discussion surrounding how law enforcement and school officials handled the investigation. Last week, city councilman Lael Montgomery publicly criticized administrators and the police department over the lack of information released leading up to Silva's arrest.
Much of the conference was spent explaining the process behind the investigation and addressing the social media uproar that had built up before the arrest.
"At no time did the victim's mother or father complain to us about anything that we were doing wrong," Police Chief David McDavid said.
Silva had been on administrative leave for more than a week when Montgomery made his first Facebook post lambasting the police department, which was still looking into the allegations at the time. Northwestern principal Debby Brian responded to Montgomery's post via an email, which was then shared by the councilman. That email offered some of the earliest insight into the nature of the allegations, saying that a child had "possibly lost their innocence."
The police chief and school officials were critical of Montgomery's tactics Monday.
"At no time did Mr. Montgomery come to me and say, 'hey chief, what's going on with this case?'" McDavid said of the councilman. "He knows who I am. We have an open relationship... He had the right to come see me. But at no time did he come see me with that."
An arrest warrant was signed for Silva in the days after the councilman's post, and documents from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office detailed the alleged crimes last week.
At the end of the conference, Montgomery defended his actions to those in attendance, saying he was contacted by the victim's family and was acting to "protect" the family.
Officials began clearing out as Montgomery continued to speak, with the police chief saying they would have a discussion "in his office" rather than airing grievances in public.