A Lucia Mar school bus driver accused of repeatedly molesting a then-9-year-old student passenger was cleared by the district and continued to sexually abuse the girl, according to court testimony and the District Attorney’s Office.
“They didn’t believe (the alleged victim),” Det. Devashish Menghrajani said of the school district at a preliminary hearing Monday for David Kenneth Lamb, who is accused of seven felony charges of sexual abuse. “(A supervisor) assumed the victim wasn’t telling the truth.”
A spokeswoman for the Lucia Mar Unified School District declined to comment on the case or Lamb’s employment Monday, citing personnel confidentiality laws.
Lamb, 49, of Arroyo Grande, allegedly admitted to investigators that he exposed himself to the now-11-year old girl identified in court as Jane Doe, but he denies other specific allegations of physical sexual abuse.
The bus driver is facing four felony charges of lewd acts with a child under 14 (two of which allege force), two felony charges of sexual penetration of a victim 10 years old or younger, and one felony charge of sending or sharing harmful material with intent to seduce a minor. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
If convicted on all counts, Lamb faces life in state prison, according to Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth.
Details of the alleged abuse had not been publicly disclosed until Lamb’s preliminary hearing Monday, where Superior Court Judge Dodie Harman heard testimony from Menghrajani before finding probable cause to order Lamb to stand trial on all charges.
Under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Julie Antos, Menghrajani said the alleged abuse occured from roughly Jan. 1 to May 30, 2017. He testified that he sat in on the girl’s initial interview with DA’s Victim’s Witness counselors, where the girl said Lamb had been her bus driver since that January. She was often the only passenger on the bus with Lamb for approximately 15 minutes each trip, according to testimony.
The alleged victim told officials that throughout the five-month period, Lamb showed her pornography on his cell phone, touched and penetrated her vagina, and exposed, and made her touch, his penis.
Menghrajani said the girl told officials Lamb showed her pornography about 10 times and touched her “multiple times” on different occassions. Each incident occurred on the bus, when the girl was alone with Lamb, Menghrajani said.
When Menghrajani interviewed Lamb on June 7, Lamb waived his right to remain silent and allegedly told him that the girl was retaliating against him.
“He said she is manipulative and making this up to get back at him for a prior time he had to tell her to sit down on the bus,” Menghrajani said.
However, Lamb confessed to exposing his penis to the girl twice, Menghrajani said, while denying other allegations. Lamb allegedly said he allowed the girl to watch “Batman” YouTube videos on his cell phone, but that she may have accessed his adult pornography he had on the phone.
In another incident, Lamb allegedly told investigators he may have inadvertently exposed his penis while adjusting his shorts in front of the girl. Another time, Lamb allegedly said, he may have inappropriately touched the girl when she either fell into his lap while he was driving or was pushed by another student.
Lamb allegedly said he would give the girl candy “to reinforce good behavior,” which is against school policy, and he allegedly admitted he would regularly urinate into a water bottle in the back of the bus when students were not present.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Lindsay Vose, Menghrajani said he reviewed surveillance video from the bus, which didn’t show evidence of Lamb showing the girl videos, but included “other stuff.”
Menghrajani testified that some of the bus’ surveillance footage for the five-month period had been automatically recorded over before the Sheriff’s Office began its investigation.
Vose asked about the girl, who Menghrajani said had had “some difficulty” at the time of the alleged abuse, including being placed in an involuntary 5150 mental health hold. Menghrajani also stated that the girl had been in trouble for “behavioral outbursts” and not following bus rules.
It was unclear when the girl’s family made a complaint to the district, but Menghrajani said a district transportation supervisor reviewed some of the bus footage in conducting the district investigation.
“Her conclusion was there was nothing there ... based on the limited information she was looking at,” he said. “This lady’s not trained — they just looked at a few videos. They didn’t look at all the data.”
Asked by Vose, Menghrajani said a sexual assault kit administered to the alleged victim did not show evidence of physical trauma, and Harman did not allow Menghrajani to answer when Vose asked if the girl had a history of complaints against other drivers.
Lamb is scheduled to be back in court March 7 for a further arraignment.
Matt Fountain 781-7909, @mattfountain1