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Sexual gratification debated in ex-teacher’s child sex crimes trial

John Hopkins and the Chicarelli defense team prepare for trial Thursday. Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell is in the background. STAFF/LAWRENCE BUDD
John Hopkins and the Chicarelli defense team prepare for trial Thursday. Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell is in the background. STAFF/LAWRENCE BUDD

The detective leading the investigation of former Springboro teacher John Austin Hopkins and a psychologist testifying for prosecutors testified about the grooming of children by sex offenders.

Detective Terry Dunkel said he believed Hopkins, 25, of Springboro, groomed the children, prompting the defense to point out his lack of formal education on grooming.

Purcell Taylor, a psychologist, then told the jury that child sex offenders groom children by getting them accustomed to his touch and build a strong emotional bond, prompting the defense to point out Taylor had never examined Hopkins.

This testimony started the fourth day of the trial of the former teacher and swim coach accused of 36 counts of gross sexual imposition on girls in his first-grade gym class at Clearcreek Elementary School.

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“You’re going to be the one who’s going to have to explain the videos,” Springboro Detective Terry Dunkel said in a video of the interrogation played at the end of Wednesday’s proceeding and starting Thursday in court.

“The videos speak for themselves.”

Hopkins spoke to police without a lawyer after the allegations surfaced in March 2019.

He denied getting sexual gratification from interactions with the students during class in which they sat on his lap, hugged him, while his hands sometimes went under their clothes and down their pants.

“I clearly have made a mistake,” Hopkins said during about 90 minutes with two detectives and the police officer stationed at the school.

The lawyers pressed different perspectives on whether Hopkins knew the gym classes were captured on surveillance video.

Prosecutor Julie Kraft quizzed Dunkel about an “awkward gait or penguin walk” they equated with Hopkins’ sexual gratification.

During the interrogation, Hopkins said, “I’ve been hurt emotionally” in establishing relationships with women.

Purcell later testified that sex offenders, unable to relate to women their age, abuse young girls “to fulfill this need that they have.”

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