Former Sioux Falls Teacher Gets Prison Time While Victim Forgives Assailant
A former Axtell Park Middle School teacher has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old student.
Tonya Drueppel, 34, was arrested in January of 2014. She later pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual contact with a child under the age of 16.
Friday, the victim and her mother spoke before the court about how the situation has changed their lives forever.
According to court documents, Drueppel's relationship with the 14-year-old girl, identified as "K.E." began while she was a student of Drueppel's in 2012.
Police became suspicious of the relationship in January of 2014. Court documents show the victim told police they were involved romantically and sexually.
The next day, Drueppel and the victim were found at a Sioux Falls motel, where Drueppel was trying to hang herself.
More than a year later, the victim, now 15-years-old, spoke in front of the court. Saying she at first thought it was her fault that Drueppel couldn't see her kids after she was arrested.
The victim's mother says Drueppel has "not only ruined her daughter's life, but her entire family's." She added she "just wants this to be over", and wants Drueppel to "get the punishment she deserves."
Drueppel's defense attorney, Lyndsay Dematteo, made the case that Drueppel is "not a predator", and that she has no criminal history.
However, the prosecution says Drueppel is a "self-focused person who took advantage of a vulnerable child."
The judge agreed that it is possible for Drueppel to be rehabilitated, but she feels the lasting effects on the victim's family are undeniable, earning Drueppel a 15 year sentence.
As part of her sentence, Drueppel is ordered to have no contact with the victim or the victim's family. She must also complete a sexual offender treatment program.