OKEECHOBEE, Fla. - He's been a teacher, a youth pastor, and a coach, everything that a child should be able to look up to. Now Joel Huddleston sits in jail, accused of molesting a 12-year-old student.
Huddleston, a social studies teacher at Yearling Middle School, was allegedly caught in bed with the girl Tuesday night. Officials say Huddleston's wife found him sleeping with the child, and took pictures to prove it. Sheriff Paul May says the girl was half naked, and that Huddleston had his hands on her private parts. Huddleston was arrested Thursday. Parents are stunned.
"I am appalled that he is one of her teachers. I want my child out of school right now," says Mary Maxey, who has a daughter in 6th grade at Yearling.
"It's pretty upsetting," says May.
Huddleston was suspended by the Okeechobee School District without pay. He's no longer the youth pastor at Buckhead Ridge Christian Church where he worked with kids for 5 years. A former minister described Huddleston as "an asset to any school' and "trustworthy" in a 2008 recommendation letter. But former students say he made them feel uncomfortable.
"He was always really creepy. He'd get close to girls, they'd keep their distance with him," says Maria Zapata, a former student of Huddleston when he was a substitute at Yearling.
Sheriff May says Huddleston has no prior criminal history in Okeechobee County.
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