Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Teacher accused of lewd acts had been under surveillance

Mark BerndtA teacher accused of committing bizarre lewd acts on students in his elementary school classroom had been under surveillance by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for months before his arrest this week.

Deputies began the surveillance when they first suspected of him of wrongdoing more than a year ago. This effort eventually helped them obtain DNA evidence to strengthen their case, according to law enforcement sources.

Former teacher Mark Berndt, 61, is accused of gagging students with tape, blindfolding them and spoon-feeding his semen to them as part of a "tasting game." Berndt was arrested Monday and has been charged with 23 counts of committing lewd acts on children. He has not entered a plea. He is in jail on $23-million bail. His public defender has declined to comment.

He allegedly took hundreds of photos of the children, many with a milky substance around their mouths, authorities said. The charges date to 2005, prosecutors said.


Police became aware of Berndt in late 2010 after he allegedly took photos to be developed at a South Bay CVS pharmacy. A photo lab technician saw the images and called police.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department detectives showed school officials the photos in January 2011, and the district immediately suspended Berndt and later fired him.

It took a year before charges were filed. During this period, the sheriff's department had Berndt under surveillance, the sources said.

Last January, they found a white substance on a spoon in his classroom. By July, tests had revealed the substance was semen. Detectives followed Berndt to get a sample of his DNA for comparison. Deputies saw Berndt spit on the sidewalk one day and used that saliva to match the semen to him, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.


Bail for teacher increased to $23 million

Miramonte parents shaken by arrest of teacher

Five more alleged victims accuse L.A. teacher of abuse

-- Richard Winton

Photo: Mark Berndt. Credit: L.A. County Sheriff's Department

Comments () | Archives (0)


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: