"He downplayed the incidents as accidents that may have happened while wrestling," the affidavit alleges

By Christine Pelisek
July 14, 2017 05:07 PM
Credit: Logan Sheriff's Department/AP

A 52-year-old Ohio school board superintendent and his wife — who is also a superintendent — were indicted Tuesday in connection with allegations of child rape involving a 13-year-old girl, PEOPLE confirms.

Patrick O’Donnell, the superintendent at Indian Lake Schools in Logan County, is facing four counts of first-degree felony rape, four counts of second-degree felony sexual battery, five counts of third-degree felony gross sexual imposition and one count of fourth-degree gross sexual imposition, according to Logan County Prosecutor Eric C. Stewart.

O’Donnell’s wife, Heather, 46, the superintendent at Midwest Regional Educational Service Center, has been charged with two counts of third-degree felony child endangering, according to Stewart.

Both have pleaded not guilty. Patrick O’Donnell has been released on $150,000 bond. Heather was released on $25,000 bail, according to Stewart.

The couple’s attorney, Sam Shamansky, says the charges against his clients are baseless. “I think they are serious but baseless and all founded on the lies of a child with ulterior motives,” he tells PEOPLE.

Shamansky says the couple is “extremely well-regarded” in the community.

“Both are devoted to education and those traits continued in their home life,” he says. “We had 35 to 40 people at their arraignment. It is unheard of. People took time off to come to the court to make sure the judge knew the depth of support both individuals enjoy in the community.”

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

According to a police affidavit obtained by PEOPLE, the allegations came to light after the child, who is not a student at Indian Lake School District, spoke to Logan County Child Services on June 12.

The child alleged that O’Donnell had been touching her inappropriately over three years, between 2013 and 2016.

Police spoke to Heather who allegedly admitted that the child had told her at least twice about the alleged sexual misconduct. “She told me that she had confronted Mr. O’Donnell about it and he downplayed the incidents as accidents that may have happened while wrestling,” the affidavit reads.

In an interview with police on June 19, Patrick denied the allegations, “but would not call the minor child a liar.”

“Eventually, he said if he touched her he never intended to,” Patrick told police, according to the affidavit. “When told these allegations would eventually have to be tried in court, he stated that he would just admit the charge to avoid trial.”

On June 29, the Indian Lake Board of Education placed O’Donnell on unpaid leave, pending actions to terminate.

Midwest Regional Educational Service Center could not be reached for comment.