New Zealand schoolteacher is jailed after three years of indecently assaulting underage boy
For three years a Porirua school teacher kept her child abuse secret, manipulating her school boy victim with threats and lies. Talia Shadwell reports.
Stacey Reriti told the boy it was his singing that stole her heart. She was in her late 20s, he was just 10.
They swapped sexual messages on a phone she had secretly given him. She drove him to water side carparks and a motel for illicit sexual encounters. They told each other they were in love.
Their relationship persisted in secret until the boy was 12-year-old. Only another teacher stumbling across one of the text exchanges broke the silence.
The boy would later tell the court they were "like normal couples that text in the morning and say 'I love you' and stuff".
She told the police, and a jury, he was a "cunning liar".
Someone other "mystery" person had sent the boy explicit photographs. Someone else had threatened him if he revealed their relationship. Someone else had claimed she was pregnant with his child.
But in High Court in Wellington in October, the jury took just three hours to return a guilty verdict for the Natone Park School teacher. She was convicted of the seven sexual abuse offences against the boy and, on Friday, Justice Mark Woolford sentenced her to 10 and half years in prison.
Throughout the trial, the jury would hear the extraordinary lengths Reriti would take to control her victim.
When he failed to respond to text, she would call him a "bad boyfriend" and threaten to call the cops on him.
While the boy was in the grips of a family tragedy, she threatened to out him for not contacting her.
She often texted the boy, telling him she felt sad, scared and alone, demanding he "send nice texts to her to make him feel good". She demanded his Facebook log-in so she could check whether he was messaging other girls.
The relationship start with her rubbing his cheek and confessing her love. They kissed in her car, parked up at the edge of the Pauatahanui inlet, gradually progressing to more explicit acts.
In February 2014, Reriti drove the boy to a Paraparaumu motel.
The jury heard how she made the 12-year-old hide in her car, so she could book them into a room without the motel staff seeing she was with a child. There, for the first time, she had sex with him.
Reriti - who maintained the boy was a cunning liar telling "disgusting" stories - shook her head and grimaced in the dock on Friday, as Woolford detailed what the boy said they did in there.
Women could not be charged with rape, Woolford noted. They can be charged with sexual violation offences, which carry the same penalties.
However, describing in graphic detail what happened in the motel room, Woolford remarked that it was, "colloquially, if not legally, known as rape."
The boy was not in court to see Reriti jailed on Friday. However his family turned out to see her put behind bars.
Reriti's crimes had created a "scar" on their lives, Woolford said. The boy wished it had never happened. "Understandably he is angry at you, Ms Reriti, he feels that his childhood has been taken from him."
Police welcomed the sentence and said investigations into female child sex offenders were rare.
Caroline Burns, clinical leader at WellStop, said it was impossible to be sure how rare women offenders actually were, as there was a view among some men that any sexual advance should be celebrated.
"Victims might have the feeling they wouldn't be believed. As well, we know male victims of sexual assault find the reaction often is, 'well, lucky you.' "
Reriti's lawyer Stephen Iorns told the court on Friday that mental health issues and a troubled past had contribute to her actions.
When Reriti had been on track to be a "very successful" teacher her "career is over".
"It's disturbing. It wasn't me. I would never do that to a child, never," Stacey Reriti.
"[We were] like normal couples that text in the morning and say 'I love you' and stuff," the boy.
"Not one scrap of evidence puts them alone together, except for the words of a troubled child," Reriti's lawyer, Stephen Iorns.
"It was the evidence of a teacher that is unwilling to admit the enormity of what she had done," Crown prosecutor Dale La Hood