Drama teacher, charged with molesting five male students, kills himself hours before closing statements in trial
David Michael Bruce was free on bond before he died and he did not appear in the court for the closing arguments in what is the 11th day of his trial
A retired drama teacher from Southern California, who was charged with molesting five male students in the school, was found dead of an apparent suicide before the closing arguments were given in his trial. The 68-year-old accused, David Michael Bruce, was found dead in his own home located in an unincorporated part of Anaheim to the south of Los Angeles.
Carrie Braun, a spokesperson for the Orange County Sheriff, said in a statement: "He was discovered by a friend or another individual, and they called law enforcement." She also said that Bruce's death is currently being investigated as a suicide but that the official autopsy report is still pending. Bruce was free on bond before he died and he did not appear in the court for the closing arguments in what is the 11th day of his trial.
The Daily Mail reported that he was facing a life sentence if he had been convicted but the district attorney's office in the county has now dismissed the case following his death. Bruce was a drama teacher at the Sycamore Junior High School in Anaheim from 1981 till the day he retired in 2010. After his retirement, he stayed on with the school as a substitute teacher until 2013.
The prosecutors alleged during the trial that Bruce had committed inappropriate and lewd acts with five boys over a period of 15 years that began in 1996. Some of these alleged acts included touching the genitals of the victims and their buttocks, as well as having oral sex with at least one minor. Prosecutors also said that Bruce, who suffered from a severe facial disfigurement, had told the boys that he had connections in Hollywood and that he could help them find work in show business.
Bruce is reported to have taken the boys to his home as well as to tapings at studios in Los Angeles. Deputy District Attorney Rick Zimmer said during the opening statements of the trial that the former drama teacher had allegedly moved on to "rubbing, touching and spanking the buttocks" of the children on the pretext of giving them massages. He told the jurors early in the trial: "The defendant basically has an obsession with male buttocks."
According to the City News Service via Orange County Register, one of the boys was a special education student who was at the receiving end of Bruce's affection by constantly getting gifts like an iPod and a skateboard. The former drama teacher was arrested on September 8, 2015, after the sister of another alleged victim informed the Anaheim Police about the molestation allegations.
Bruce was then charged with eight felony counts of lewd acts upon a child under 14 and two felony counts of lewd acts on a child age 14 or 15. He was released almost immediately on a $100,000 bail. More victims started coming forward and alleging that he had molested them as well and authorities re-arrested Bruce on September 30. He was released later on a $1million bond.
Sal Ciulla, Bruce's defense attorney, has argued that the children were either fantasizing about what happened or that they were lying and just hoping to cash in on the civil lawsuits that followed the allegations. Three of the victims sued Bruce and the Anaheim Union High School District.