Published April 28, 2008
MAGNOLIA, Ark. – Police say the motives of a teacher accused of taking three youngsters to motels to engage in sex in a nearby town aren't known.
Donna Lou Sanders, 46, of Magnolia, was released on $100,000 bond Friday. She is charged with 12 counts of permitting abuse of a minor, and 10 counts of rape. Columbia County deputy prosecutor David Butler said she is being treated at a private mental health facility.
Chief Robert Gorum said Sanders told investigators on Wednesday, the day she was arrested, that she committed all of the crimes of which she is being accused.
Sanders, who was a special education teacher at Magnolia Junior High School, resigned from that job on Wednesday with a letter that consisted of a single sentence: "Due to catastrophic events that have taken place within my family, I do hereby resign as a teacher in the Magnolia School District."
Some details of the allegations against Sanders emerged Friday when authorities released a probable-cause affidavit written by Detective Todd Dew in support of the charges against Sanders. On the version provided to reporters, the names of the juveniles involved were blacked out, and it was not known if any were students in Sanders' classes.
According to the affidavit, Magnolia Junior High principal Chris Hurley said he had spoken with two girls — one 12 years old, the other 13 — and a 15-year-old male who was also involved. The youngsters confirmed incidents involving sexual activity and also told Hurley that Sanders had provided them with alcohol, the affidavit said.
The 15-year-old boy was interviewed by Dew, with his parents' permission, and told the detective that the 12-year-old girl was his former girlfriend, the affidavit said.
According to the boy, Sanders drove him and the 12-year-old girl several times to a cabin in rural Columbia County, where they were left alone for two hours or more, the affidavit said. The boy said Sanders also bought beer for the two youngsters.
While at the cabin, the boy said, he and the 12-year-old girl engaged in sex.
He also told Dew that Sanders on several occasions bought alcohol and drove the youngsters around in her car while they engaged in sexual activities in the back seat. The 12-year-old girl later told a state police child abuse investigator that she told Sanders to turn up the volume of the radio while she and the male were engaged in sexual activity.
The 13-year-old girl told Dew that Sanders had taken her and the 12-year-old girl to El Dorado on two occasions and were left at motels to meet men in their early 20s.
According to Gorum, an arrest warrant for one count of rape was issued Thursday for Dustin Lloyd Rowland, 21, of Union County. Rowland remains at large.
The 13-year-old told authorities she performed oral sex on one of the men, but did not have sexual intercourse with them.
The affidavit said the state police child abuse investigator interviewed the 12-year-old female, who said Sanders drove her and the 13-year-old to El Dorado on two occasions to meet with a 16-year-old boy that the 12-year-old had met through an Internet site. The 12-year-old said she engaged in sex with one of the males.
The 12-year-old said Sanders would drop the girls off in El Dorado on Friday nights and pick them up on Saturday mornings.
Sanders' husband, Magnolia High School assistant principal Terry Sanders, told investigators he didn't learn of the events and allegations against his wife until Monday. He said that, when he asked his wife, she admitted that the allegations were true.