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Gilbert ROTC instructor accused of sex with teen

Joseph Stephenson (Source: Gilbert Police Department) Joseph Stephenson (Source: Gilbert Police Department)

An instructor with the Army Junior ROTC program at Gilbert's Highland High School is accused of sexual conduct with a student.

Joseph Stephenson, 41, was taken into custody at 2 p.m. Monday and booked into the downtown Phoenix jail.

He's being held on suspicion of sexual conduct with a minor.

The alleged victim told her sister about the relationship and the sister then told her parents who called police.

Stephenson allegedly had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old female student, officers said. They didn't release any information on when it reportedly occurred.

Stephenson has been a Reserve Officer Training Corps program instructor at the school since August.

ROTC students told CBS5 that Stephenson was a retired U.S. Army veteran, who was well respected by everyone.

High school senior Shelby Disney is an ROTC student.

Disney said that she never suspected any misconduct from Stephenson.

"I never saw anything weird,"said Disney.  "I never saw him talk to girls weird. I never saw him doing anything out of the ordinary that I thought a teacher should not do."

"I was shocked. I can't believe it happened," said freshman Isabelle Chapman. "He was always very professional with all the cadets."

Highland High School Principal Domonic Salce issued the following letter to parents:

"This letter is being sent to all parents of Highland High School students in order to inform you of a recent situation. At the end of the school day on Jan. 6, 2014, Highland High School and Gilbert Public Schools administration were notified by the Gilbert Police Department that one of Highland's JROTC instructors, Joseph Stephenson, was arrested and charged with sexual conduct with a 15 year old female student.

"Mr. Stephenson has been employed at Highland since August, 2013. The Gilbert Police Department has provided the school and district administration with limited information about the situation due to the ongoing investigation.

"The school and district are cooperating fully with the police and will also conduct an internal investigation of the allegations. Mr. Stephenson was immediately placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal and internal investigations. 

"Because this is a criminal investigation and personnel issue, we are limited in the information we can release. Any questions about the investigation should be directed to the Gilbert Police Department Public Information Office at 480-635-7213."

 "I am a teacher in the district, so I know they do great background checks," said parent Jan Kraegel. "But you can't see what's going to happen in the future. You don't know what is going through their mind."

Gilbert police told CBS5 that there are no indications that Stephenson was involved with any other students, but they are looking into it.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.

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