The jury in the trial for the former Arrowhead Elementary School teacher accused of inappropriately touching his students will likely begin deliberations today after hearing closing arguments from both sides.
Presentation of evidence and witness testimony concluded Friday in the trial of Matthew Rausenberg, 40, of Columbus.
In total, 25 witnesses testified for the prosecution since the trial started last Tuesday, including nine alleged victims who are his former students.
The students testified that Rausenberg, or “Mr. R” as he asked to be called, was their second- or third-grade teacher and they all testified that they enjoyed his class.
“I was so excited to get Mr. R,” an 11-year-old who was in Rausenberg’s class when she was 7 testified. “He just made teaching fun.”
Some parents of the alleged victims testified, too. A majority of the parents said they liked Rausenberg and thought he was working really well with their children.
“Everyone seemed to enjoy being in Mr. R’s class,” one mother told the jury. “He became part of our life. Our daughter was very upset when school ended and she wouldn’t see Mr. R.”
Many of the parents also told the jury they saw some suspicious behavior when they would visit Rausenberg’s class but never said anything to school officials.
However, one mother testified that her daughter came home from school in the fall of 2012 and told her she had gotten into a fight with two female friends about who would get to sit in Rausenberg’s lap and read to him.
“I wanted to figure out the right next step,” the mother told the jury.
Ultimately, the mother didn’t believe she had enough evidence to go to school officials and instead she told her daughter not to sit in his lap again.
However, a mother of one of the other girls involved in the fight did go to the principal at Arrowhead who gave Rausenberg a formal warning.
Another victim, now 15, testified that she told her mother about sitting on Rausenberg’s lap in class and told her mother that she didn’t like they way Rausenberg touched her.
The girl told the jury her mother went to the school in 2007 and met with Rausenberg and school officials but nothing came of the visit.
Rausenberg was arrested on March 16, 2015, after Olentangy Local Schools officials held a special meeting the next morning to brief parents of the situation. School officials and Delaware County Sheriff’s Office detective Jason Campbell urged parents who thought their children might have been victims to visit Nationwide Children’s Hospital for an interview with child trauma specialists.
“I was highly upset when I found out the victims were children,” one mother told the jury. “My gut told me my daughter was involved.”
Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien asked each of the girls if their parents had told them about their “private parts” and many of the victims said they either hadn’t discussed it or they didn’t really understand.
O’Brien also asked the victims whom their parents told them to tell if they felt uncomfortable at school. Many of the girls said they were told to tell their teacher.
The victims said they would climb into Rausenberg’s lap to read to him and he would rub his hands up and down their legs and thighs. Some of the girls testified that he would touch their inner thigh and one girl said he touched her breasts and crotch.
The jury also watched an 8½-minute cellphone video that was found on Rausenberg’s phone that showed him with one of the girls.
Rausenberg faces a total of 34 charges of gross sexual imposition, five charges of kidnapping, and three charges of pandering sexually oriented material. Prosecutors said there are nine alleged victims in the case — all former students of Rausenberg. The girls now range in age from 9 to 17.
Prosecutors say the kidnapping charges stem from Rausenberg physically restraining students to keep them from leaving.
Prosecutors have said that Rausenberg could face life in prison if he is convicted on all the charges.
Rausenberg resigned his position with Olentangy schools shortly after his March 16 arrest.
The jury is comprised of seven men and eight women, including alternate jurors.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.