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School leader arrested by Internet task force

Educator accused of crimes against a child

 

Nate Piturachsatit

A popular educator and rising young school administrator was taken from Lake Roosevelt Schools in handcuffs last week, after a Seattle-based task force on Internet crimes served warrants to search his home, office and vehicle.

Nate Piturachsatit, 37, was arrested at the school Feb. 3, after law enforcement officers from several agencies, all part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, arrived at 10 a.m. with a warrant to search his office and computer.

When they left, they didn't take the computer with them, but they did take his cell phone.

Piturachsatit is the vice principal of Lake Roosevelt Elementary School, where four of his own children attend.

While his office, home and vehicle were being searched, Piturachsatit sat in an unmarked police car behind the school, admitting, according to records filed with the court, that he had had inappropriate contact with a 14-year-old girl through Instagram, a social media account used to send photos and videos.

He told Seattle Police Detective Daljit Gill and Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent M. Mishke that he communicated with a Wisconsin girl, identified only as C.J., because she "gave him attention and made him feel good," but he knew he had been "stupid," according to Gill's arrest statement of probable cause filed with the court. But those Instagram interludes included photos and videos of a highly sexual nature, the report details.

The relationship had come to light in January, after C.J.'s mother received a package for the girl from Pink, a Victoria's Secret sister store where she doesn't allow C.J. to shop. It contained a shirt from a "Nate," which C.J. told Janesville, Wisconsin, police was sent as an apology for having made her feel uncomfortable. The package had a return address of a place in Spokane where Piturachsatit used to live. Police said they identified Piturachsatit from photos on C.J.'s phone that matched his driver's license photo, as well as Facebook and LinkedIn account photos.

In the police car, Piturachsatit said he has never had any other similar contact with another minor and that he does not have an attraction to children.

He said he had been scheduled to interview for a school job in Thailand later that day.

Instead, he was booked into Okanogan County Jail facing allegations of communication with a minor for immoral purposes, sexual exploitation of a minor, and possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually-explicit conduct.

Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Henry Rawson set bail at $500,000, double what Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Branden Platter had sought. Piturachsatit was ordered to surrender his passport.

On Monday, his attorney entered a plea of not guilty and objected to the length of time his court schedule was set for. On Tuesday, he was still listed on the jail roster.

An arraignment is set for Feb. 16 at 1:30 p.m.

Grand Coulee Dam School District Superintendent Dennis Carlson said the entire district staff met Wednesday afternoon so they could be apprised of the allegations against Piturachsatit.

"I was assured by law enforcement that they had nothing to do with this school," Carlson said. "It was external."

Coulee Dam Interim Police Chief Larry Hall said other agencies in the task force included the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Border Patrol, and Bellevue and Kirkland police departments.

The searches were happening even as the Grand Coulee Dam Rotary Club was discussing, at a regular weekly luncheon, Piturachsatit's proposal to work with the club on a joint venture to send kids from Lake Roosevelt and Nespelem sixth grades to the Tall Timbers retreat camp in Leavenworth.

The club hosted a spaghetti feed to help fund the annual trip last spring and was planning to do the same this year, with Piturachsatit as the key organizer on the school side.

Carlson said the Tall Timbers trip will go on as planned this year. He said staff at the school were adamant that those plans not be interrupted.

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