Tonya Marie Drueppel, 34, a former Sioux Falls School District teacher who was charged with raping a student, had her appeal for reduced bond denied. Judge Mark Salter refused to reduce the $500,000 bond, which means Drueppel will remain in jail. The former S.F. School District employee has been accused of being romantically involved with a 14-year-old girl at Axtell Park Middle School while she was engaged to teach Native American Connections classes.
A lapse of judgment
Drueppel faces charges of rape on three counts and two counts of sexual contact with a minor. The case came to light in January when the teenage student told police that a relationship that began when they met in school continued after the accused had left the school. The two were found in room 10 of the Nites Inn in Central Sioux Falls. Court records indicate that the teenager was found weeping on the bed while the teacher was in the shower with an electrical cord around her neck.
She said the two had multiple sexual encounters over several months. Although the former teacher admitted to the relationship she has so far denied any sexual involvement, terming her relationship as a lapse of judgment. Druppel’s bond plea through her criminal defense attorney came almost a year after she was imprisoned. Her attorney petitioned Judge Salter that she be released to her family before the commencement of her trial next month.
A troubled past
Drueppel, who now faces up to 15 years in prison, claimed that she and the teenager had become a support system for each other. Drueppel may have taken this relationship a little too far.
The husband of the accused had filed for divorce in March 2013, on grounds of adultery, irreconcilable differences, and extreme cruelty. Tonya was given primary physical custody of the three children aged 9 to 14 while her husband was granted supervised visitation due to the domestic violence charges. During the divorce proceedings, Tonya Drueppel swore that her husband was possessive and assaulted her on several occasions.
Teen obsession or rape?
Drueppel’s criminal defense attorney said that her client was convinced that the teen was obsessed with her and claimed the sexual allegations to be false. Her attorney told the judge Drueppel has no criminal history, had not admitted to any criminal behavior, and was willing to sign a no contact order if released on a lower bond. On the other hand, the prosecution alleged that the crimes were serious to warrant a bond. In his ruling, Judge Salter said he was not convinced that circumstances had changed and had based his decision on Drueppel’s role as a teacher and her failure to put an end to the relationship at an early stage.
Investigators have ruled out any other victims involved in the case and have found no evidence that any sexual contact happened at the school. As per the owner of Tea Tots day care where Drueppel worked, the former teacher was well liked by parents and teachers. Prior to being recruited, she was screened for any previous child abuse charges and was cleared of any criminal background and sex offender checks.