BASALT - Basalt High School teacher and coach Lauren Redfern will be arrested on suspicion of having a sexual relationship with a student at the school, officials with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday.
A warrant for Redfern's arrest was signed by an Eagle County district judge Tuesday. Redfern agreed to turn herself in at the Eagle County Detention Center no later than Thursday morning, Eagle County Undersheriff Mike McWilliam said. Terms of surrender were established with Redfern's attorney, he said. Redfern is not considered a flight risk, McWilliam said.
Redfern, 25, will be charged with sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, with a pattern of abuse, according to McWilliam. That is a Class 3 felony. The alleged ongoing nature of sexual contact could have major implications concerning a prison sentence if Redfern is convicted.
Investigators believe Redfern had repeated sexual contact with a male student attending Basalt High School for "three of four months, since last fall," McWilliam said. The student is a senior at the high school. He was 17 years old when the contact started and is now 18, according to McWilliam.
The Sheriff's Office was notified by school officials about the alleged sexual relationship last week. Investigators believe the teacher and student met at his house and at her house, but not at the school. Both the student and teacher live in the El Jebel area, McWilliam said.
The alleged relationship was ongoing up until the time of the investigation, authorities believe. Interviews have indicated it was consensual, McWilliam said. The victim was interviewed by detectives and school officials.
McWilliam said he didn't know whether the victim wants charges to be pressed against Redfern. That has no bearing on the Sheriff's Office's decision to pursue a charge of sexual assault on a child.
"It's really not in their hands," McWilliam said of alleged victims in those cases.
Colorado law has some nuances when it comes to sexual relations between people in their late teens and adults. An 18-year-old can have a consensual sexual relationship with an older adult, even a teacher, without a crime being committed, McWilliam said. That would violate policies of most schools, but it isn't a crime because an 18-year-old is considered an adult.
A 17-year-old can have sexual relations with an adult of any age as long as it's not a person in a position of trust - such as a teacher, according to McWilliam.
Redfern hasn't returned telephone calls from The Aspen Times seeking comment. She graduated from Basalt High School in 2004. She was a star player on the girls basketball team. Redfern was hired as the head coach of the girls basketball team in 2010. She also is a health teacher.
Redfern was placed on paid leave last week and wasn't coaching the basketball team Friday or Saturday evening. Rumors were rampant at Basalt High School and in the town after it was learned that an investigation was under way.
McWilliam said Wednesday afternoon that Redfern has never been in custody in relation to this case because she hadn't been charged with a crime at that time. The investigation has produced no evidence that there was a sexual relationship with any other student, he said.
Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said no further action would be taken regarding Redfern until it was known what direction the law-enforcement investigation was taking. She said school officials reported to law officials as soon as they learned of the alleged incident.
Once Redfern is taken into custody, there will be a mandatory hearing before a judge to set bail and to establish conditions she must follow upon her release, such as a possible restraining order requiring her to avoid the alleged victim, according to Eagle County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jessie Mosher. The bail and conditions hearing is mandatory for cases involving sexual assault, she said.
In others cases in Colorado involving a teacher and a student younger than 18, repeated sexual contact resulted in a steep sentence after a conviction. Travis Masse, a former wrestling coach and social-studies teacher at Broomfield High School, was convicted last year of having sex with a 17-year-old female student on three separate occasions. He was sentenced to 10 years to life and 20 years on parole on that charge.