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Ascension school employee booked in child rape investigation

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GONZALES - An Ascension Parish middle school employee faces additional charges in an evolving juvenile sex crimes case.

WBRZ was first to report Heather French was booked into jail in late February on charges from Gonzales Police.  She was booked as an accessory after the fact to two counts of first-degree rape involving a child under the age of 13 and for failure to report the commission of felonies.  

Police did not release information about French's arrest at the time.

More than a week later, Ascension Parish Sheriff's deputies released new details: They were charging French with additional crimes.  

In a news release, deputies said French was charged with two counts of pornography involving juveniles and two counts of video voyeurism.  

She remained jailed since her first arrest.  Bond was set at $950,000, according to jail records.

Ascension Public Schools lists French as a paraprofessional at Galvez Middle School and a "support person of the year" for the 2020-2021 school year.  The school system said Monday, French was no longer an employee.

French was arrested, initially, after another suspect, Douglas Decuir, was charged in the same case. Decuir was indicted in September on charges of first-degree rape, child pornography, indecent behavior with juveniles, obstruction of justice and inciting a felony, according to the sheriff's office.

Court records said the children involved are currently 11 and 14 years old, respectively. 

Decuir pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity back in January, and two court-appointed doctors are scheduled to evaluate him.

Monday (March 7), the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office said it became involved in the case after police in Gonzales alerted deputies to information that "French had exchanged pictures and text messages containing lewd comments regarding two students from Galvez Middle School.  Upon further investigation, detectives located child pornography from a separate incident not involving any students from Galvez Middle on French's cell phone."

The messages were exchanged between French and Decuir, authorities told WBRZ.

The sheriff's office said it was unsure of who the children are in the separate incident.  It was not immediately known if they were from Ascension Parish, the sheriff's office said.

Parents of the two students involved have been notified, deputies said.  

The school system released the following statement after WBRZ reported the initial arrest:

Dear Galvez Middle Parents and Guardians,

We were informed that a Galvez Middle School paraprofessional was arrested last night. It is part of a Gonzales Police Department investigation that did not originate at our school. The employee is not on campus today, and we will take appropriate action in working with law enforcement on their investigation.

We understand this causes concerns from our parents and community, and we want you to know that the safety and security of our students are of the utmost importance. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have specific concerns about your child, but please be aware that we are limited in what we know and can share as it is a law enforcement investigation.


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