A teacher aide at a Manatee County elementary school has been charged with molesting a third-grade student, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Thursday.
Angel Rodriguez Mercado, 67, worked as a paraprofessional at Florine J. Abel Elementary School at 7100 Madonna Place in south Manatee County, the sheriff’s office said.
According to a job listing posted this week by Manatee County School District, responsibilities of the position include assisting in the supervision of students on campus and in the classroom, working with students in groups or individually as directed by the teacher and escorting students to the library and other areas of the school.
The sheriff’s office said that an investigation began on Nov. 7 after a third-grade student told a relative about allegedly being molested by Mercado.
Mercado was immediately removed from contact with children, the sheriff’s office said.
The sheriff’s office said that on Wednesday, Mercado confessed to molesting the student and was arrested and booked into the Manatee County Jail. He remained there held without bail on Thursday.
“We commend the bravery of the victim in disclosing this information which led to Mercado’s arrest,” the sheriff’s office said in the news release. “We encourage parents to speak to their children about molestation and how to report this crime.”
Florida molestation laws
In Florida, “lewd and lascivious molestation” of a minor under the age of 12 is a “life felony.” It carries a punishment of at least 25 years and up to life in prison.
Anyone with information about the case or related crimes can contact detectives at 941-747-3011, the sheriff’s office said.
The School District of Manatee County did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.