A Lafayette Parish public school employee who had sex with a 16-year-old foreign exchange student at a French Quarter hotel is now facing statutory rape charges in New Orleans, according to criminal court records.
Police this week booked Kimberly Wellman-Rich, 36, as part of an investigation into her alleged abuse of the teen, whom she and her husband were hosting in their home in Youngsville. Before being fired from her job of Feb. 23, she worked as a special education paraprofessional at Edgar Martin Middle School.
Jeffrey Rich, 35, was also arrested for allegedly knowing about the child sex abuse and failing to report it to law enforcement authorities. Authorities jailed the couple in Lafayette Parish for related crimes there.
While the initial arrests made international headlines, New Orleans police documents filed in court this week provide a more complete picture of a case in which scarce details had emerged.
The newspaper is not identifying the student, a European native whose name matches that of a student at a Lafayette area school, because of a policy against naming victims of alleged sex crimes in most instances. Attempts to contact the Riches were unsuccessful Friday.
According to the court documents, the couple began hosting the 16-year-old boy in their home in August.
They would often smoke marijuana with the student, court records say. Then, on the boy’s 16th birthday, Wellman-Rich had sex with the student. The police narrative describes the boy as a virgin at the time of the encounter.
Wellman-Rich went on to have sex with the teen multiple times over the next several months, mostly on her couch, in her bed and in the guest room, police added, citing an account that the teen provided during a forensic interview. At times, police said, her husband was home but in another room.
The woman told her friends about the relationship but pleaded with the boy to keep quiet about what she was doing, police alleged. The legal age of consent in Louisiana is 17.
Then, on January 15, Wellman-Rich took the boy on a trip to New Orleans with three of her girlfriends, police wrote in court filings.
The two went out drinking at bars, and at one point, she kicked the other women out of the group’s hotel room in the 100 block of Royal Street so she could have sex with the student, police alleged.
When they returned home, Jeffrey Rich confronted the student. The teen told Rich about the numerous sexual encounters he had with his wife, who eventually joined the conversation, police said.
“According to (the boy), Mr. Rich was angry, but not as angry as he thought Mr. Rich would have been after he was told (the student) was having sex with Mrs. Wellman-Rich,” investigators wrote in a summary of the high schooler’s forensic interview. “(The boy) stated that if it were him receiving that type of information, he would have been very angry.”
Jeffrey Rich ultimately asked the boy to keep the encounters with Wellman-Rich a secret “from everyone except him,” police added.
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The boy said that Wellman-Rich had sex with him one more time after that. Then, on Jan. 22, an anonymous caller reported Wellman-Rich to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.
Authorities removed the teen from the couple’s house, and interviewed him on Feb. 4 at Hearts of Hope Center for Sexual Trauma in Lafayette.
Youngsville police booked Wellman-Rich on Feb. 11 with carnal knowledge of a juvenile, Louisiana’s technical term for statutory rape. She was also booked with indecent behavior with a juvenile, contributing to the delinquency of minors and encouraging child delinquency.
Officers booked Rich with being an accessory after the fact to felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Both were released from jail after posting bail. Wellman-Rich on Monday was booked into the New Orleans jail on counts mirroring the ones she is facing in Lafayette Parish. She was released after posting $35,000 bail.
The most serious crimes Wellman-Rich is accused of committing are carnal knowledge of a juvenile and indecent behavior with a juvenile, both felonies. In her case, if convicted, the former could carry up to 10 years in prison, and the latter would allow a maximum of seven years.
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Katie Gagliano contributed to this report.