Four Educators Charged In Child Abuse Case

Four educators are facing charges from Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic for not intervening in a child abuse case involving a 12-year-old student in 2015 and 2016. The boy was found near railroad tracks in Galien Township last August dehydrated, bruised, and extremely underweight at just 47-pounds. His father, Aaron Zemke and stepmother, Alicia Zemke, are both serving 20-to-80 years in prison after pleading no contest to child abuse and torture earlier this year. Now charged are Three Oaks Elementary School principal Heidi Clark; guidance counselor Matt Cook; special education teacher Diane Balling; and elementary teacher Sherrie Bender for not reporting what they knew about the boy’s abuse. They are all due to be in court for pre-trial conferences the week of June 5 in St. Joseph. Each is charged with two misdemeanors that carry 93-day jail sentences if convicted.