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Former teacher arrested in Fort Myers for sexually assaulting students in 1970s

A former Catholic school teacher was arrested Monday in Lee County for sexually assaulting students decades ago.

Joseph Comperchio, 66, who lives in Fort Myers, is facing six charges in Michigan for assaulting children ages 9 to 11 in the 1970s, according to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Those charges include two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony charge punishable by up to life in prison and four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, which is a 15-year felony.

Aaron Averhart is a sexual abuse survivor. He said this story hit home for him. “Embarrassment and shame is usually the biggest factor for us keeping it inside and bottled up for decades.”

Averhart was saddened to learn about what Comperchio stands accused of.

“They should be caught sooner, without a doubt,” Averhart said.

Averhart knows personally the amount of courage it takes for victims to come forward, even years later.

“When we are grappling with other issues in life and this thing just keeps rearing its ugly head until it has to get dealt with,” Averhart said. “That’s why you see a lot of people come forward 20, 30, 40 years down the line.”

Rich Kolko, WINK News safety and security specialist, said the amount of time that has passed makes this a complex case.

“Evidence may be gone, may have disappeared,” Kolko said. “Witnesses no longer remember what they saw, or they may even be dead at this point, very complicated.”

As complicated as it might be, Averhart said survivors feel comfortable now more than ever to share their stories with hope for justice.

“It’s a different time. It’s OK to talk about it. It’s OK to be a survivor instead of feeling guilt and shame,” Averhart said. “It’s nice to see potentially justice served after decades for someone.”

Comperchio taught drama and music at St. John Catholic School in Jackson, Michigan. We learned through the Michigan attorney general Comperchio also formerly taught at Canterbury School in the Cypress Lake community of Lee County.

Comperchio is in custody at Lee County Jail without bond. His arraignment is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The Canterbury School said there were two former employees from two different decades accused of misconduct involving minors, but the school did not release their names.

Canterbury School statement

Protecting our students is paramount. We learned through news accounts that two former employees from two different decades have been accused of misconduct involving minors. Neither of the accused has a current relationship with our school. There is nothing more important to us than the safety and well-being of our students and staff. We are taking these allegations very seriously. We have zero-tolerance for even the perception of wrong-doing and will vigorously conduct our own thorough internal investigation and will fully cooperate with authorities.

Reporter:Breana Ross
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