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Former St. Paul custodian faces sexual assault charges

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A former custodian at a St. Paul public school who was charged in March with peeking at a boy in a school bathroom stall now faces additional charges, including sexual assault, involving seven separate victims.

The Ramsey County Attorney's office filed the charges Tuesday against Walter Happel, 62, of Newport, Minnesota. Happel was arrested and is jailed on $100,000 bail, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. He will make his first court appearance on the new charges Wednesday.

Happel had been charged in March with surreptitious interference with privacy in connection with an incident that occurred on Feb. 20 at Linwood Monroe Arts Plus Elementary School, where Happel worked. Happel was accused of looking at an 11-year-old boy, both under and over the stall door, as the boy used the toilet.

The case filed against him in March prompted others to come forward and accuse Happel of assaulting them decades earlier when they were children -- including his son and another relative, according to the complaints filed Tuesday. Happel’s son was not listed as one of the seven victims in the new cases.

Happel was charged Tuesday with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct and four additional counts of interference with privacy.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi issued this statement regarding the case.

“On behalf of our community, I want to thank all of the victims for courageously coming forward to police about the defendant’s sexual abuse. This is not an easy thing to do and we want them to know we stand by them. He has preyed on the innocence of children for over 30 years, and I am relieved that we can seek to hold him accountable for these crimes and get him away from our children. We will pursue justice for the victims, their families and our community.”

Happel had been suspected of having inappropriate contact with student for several years. After the peeping case came to light, parents questioned school officials about their handling of his case and asked why he was allowed to continue working in an elementary school.

Happel worked for the district for 30 years, and was a custodian at Linwood Monroe from 2004 until he retired in late February.

St. Paul School Superintendent Valeria Silva could not be reached for comment, according to the Star Tribune. The paper said she has declined earlier requests to discuss Happel's case and the circumstances of his employment with the district.

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