EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 10, 2013

Voice teacher, 32, accused of impregnating pupil, 14

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — A 32-year-old Haverhill voice teacher is held on $50,000 cash bail after police charged him with impregnating a 14-year-old pupil from Amesbury.

He faces a mandatory 10 years in state prison if convicted, prosecutors said.

Police said they began an investigation earlier this year after being notified by the Department of Children and Families about the alleged sexual abuse of a girl by her “voice coach.”

When police spoke with the girl, she denied having a relationship with the teacher and instead pointed to someone she said she had met online. Investigators then obtained a warrant for cell phone records that showed “thousands” of text messages between the voice coach and the victim, many of them sexually graphic.

Police charged the teacher, Joshua Garsteck of 170 Washington St., with aggravated rape of a child. Additional charges of impeding a police investigation are pending.

According to prosecutors, the text messages suggested the girl and Garsteck had a sexual relationship reaching back to the start of the year.

Assistant District Attorney Jessica Strasnick brought a 5-inch thick binder of the messages to court yesterday and said there were many more.

Strasnick said the investigation also showed that Garsteck was having online sexual conversations with another juvenile girl.

At a hearing yesterday, Strasnick asked that Garsteck be held on $100,000 cash bail, while defense lawyer Michael Manzi of Lowell suggested $1,000 bail.

Manzi said Garsteck, a Pennsylvania native, is not at risk of fleeing the area, has lived locally for several years and has never been involved with the courts, in Pennsylvania or Massachusetts.

Judge Patricia Dowling set bail at $50,000 cash and said if Garsteck posts bail, he will be under house arrest and must stay away from the victim and off the Internet. The next hearing is Nov. 5.

Strasnick said an investigation began in May after police were notified by the state Department of Children and Families that the girl was several months pregnant, according to a police report on file in Haverhill District Court.

The DCF told police Garsteck was a voice instructor with the DeAngelis Studio of Music in Lafayette Square in Haverhill and the victim was a student.

The report said a DCF investigator informed the DeAngelis Studio at that time that Garsteck was under investigation. At the request of the investigator, the music school limited Garsteck’s interactions with students to adults, the report said.

When contacted yesterday, Nancy Burger, co-owner of DeAngelis Studio, said Garsteck taught on a contract basis but is no longer with the studio.

“We are very concerned about the allegation, and we are cooperating with police,” Burger said.

Strasnick said the victim initially told investigators the father of the child was someone her own age but ultimately said Garsteck was the father.

The report said the girl had offered to tell her mother who the real father was but only if she promised not to get “him” in trouble. The girl told her mother she and Garsteck were in love and were going to be together, the report said.

Police said that during the investigation, the girl’s mother kept information from them. In September, when investigators confronted the woman at her home in Amesbury regarding contradictory statements she had made to police, the woman became defensive and said that even though her daughter had sex with Garsteck, it didn’t mean he was the father because the her daughter had sex with others, too, according to the police report.

Strasnick said that when Garsteck became aware of the investigation, he showed up at the police station to try to clear his name.

Police said he denied having a romantic relationship with the girl -- she wasn’t his type, he said, and he kept his professional and personal lives separate. He also told police he had a relationship with the victim’s family, which included sharing family holidays, taking trips to the beach and seeing movies with the girl’s mother.

The report said investigators asked Garsteck to take a DNA test to eliminate him from suspicion but he refused.

Strasnick said Garsteck also denied having had any cell phone conversations with the girl or her mother. Evidence shows otherwise, Strasnick said.

“There are thousands of text messages between this defendant and this child,” Strasnick said. “There are text messages between this defendant and the child’s mother, and there are text messages between this defendant and what appears to be another juvenile, who is in the process of being identified.”

She said the messages between Garsteck and the victim were “graphic and sexual.”

“I know we’re familiar with the term ‘sexting,’ but I suggest that ‘sexting’ is a gross understatement for the content of the defendant’s text messages,” she said. “They truly shock the conscience that an adult would text such graphic details to a child.”

Strasnick read aloud one of those text messages, which was vulgar and sexual and raised the eyebrows of those in the courtroom.

She said the texts also pointed to Garsteck being aware of the investigation and taking steps to cover up his crimes.

Police said investigators interviewed the victim on Oct. 3 while she was in a Boston hospital preparing to give birth. Labor was to be induced on Oct. 6, the police report said. It is not known whether the baby was delivered at that time.

The girl told police that her relationship with Garsteck began at the end of last year. She said it began with kisses that led to sex several times in January and February.

The girl told investigators she and her mother did not want to talk to police about Garsteck because they wanted her child to have a father and someone to provide child support.

Police arrested Garsteck on Monday.