Now facing a maximum potential penalty of up to 76 years in prison
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - The former principal of South Royalton's high school, who lost his job in November after a teenage exchange student living in his home discovered small video cameras hidden in her bathroom and bedroom and immediately contacted police, now stands accused of secretly filming four other teenage girls allegedly using the same set up inside his home in Sharon.
Dean Stearns, 56, pleaded innocent on Monday afternoon to an additional slate of voyeurism-related charges which brings the total number of criminal counts pending against him to 36 - six of them felonies.
Stearns' defense attorney, Michael Shane, convinced Judge Timothy Tomasi that his client, a life-long resident of the area and a former captain on the Hartford fire department, was not a flight risk and the judge agreed to release Stearns from the courthouse on an unsecured $25,000 appearance bond.
The new charges all involve images that appeared to have been created before the original investigation began in November. Police said they were all found on computers, hard drives and other similar items capable of recording and storing images which were seized at Stearns' home as part of their initial investigation into the reports of misconduct made by the teenage exchange student.
After a search warrant was granted allowing for an examination of the contents of all of the technology that detectives had gathered from around Stearns' residence, investigators began examining it at the state's crime lab using forensic software and, according to an affidavit filed with the court by Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Eric Jollymore, that was when they discovered that other underage teenage girls, apparently friends of the original victim who had been staying overnight as her guests within Stearns' home, had apparently been recorded as well.
In all, Jollymore wrote, the search turned up 205 separate images or video files showing girls in the bathroom in various states of undress either grooming or taking showers and in at least one instance a hidden camera allegedly captured an image of Stearns' face as he appeared to be setting up one of the devices which police said were hidden in things like clocks and cell phone chargers.
Stearns, who has no previous criminal record, turned himself in voluntarily to police this week after learning that the additional charges were going to be filed against him, his defense attorney noted.
Attorney Shane also stressed that to date there is no indication to suggest that Stearns ever posted or shared any of the surreptitious videos or images on the Internet.
Stearns faces a maximum potential penalty of up to 76 years in prison if he were to be convicted of all the charges now pending against him.
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