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Charges reduced in Apollo-Ridge peeping case

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 1:51 a.m.

An Apollo man was ordered Thursday to stand trial on lesser charges for allegedly using a wall mirror to look from a hallway into a restroom where nine girls were putting on play costumes last November.

Richard A. Lookhart, 45, was a long-time janitor in the Apollo-Ridge School District and worked at the high school in Kiski Township until the alleged incident took place.

He faced multiple counts of charges of open lewdness and unlawful contact with a minor. But at a preliminary hearing Thursday, those charges were thrown out.

Lookhart still faces trial in Armstrong County Court on seven counts each of invasion of privacy and disorderly conduct.

Two of the girls, one 15 and the other who was then 17, told Leechburg District Judge James Andring that a teacher sent the girls to change for a dress rehearsal. They used a restroom near the guidance office because it was the only one unlocked after school.

Officials said the restroom has been locked since the incident.

The younger girl, who is in the ninth grade, testified she was in her underwear and reaching for the costume when she happened to look up. The Valley News Dispatch is not using the names of the alleged victims who were minors at the time.

The girl testified that she “made eye contact” for several seconds with the man she knew to be the janitor.

That made her nervous, so she moved to the side, only to see him looking at the girls several other times in the next few minutes. The other girls were in similar stages of undress, she said.The second girl testified that she glanced at the mirror and also saw him looking from the hallway. The girl said she finished getting dressed and rushed to tell a teacher.

Defense attorney Duke George asked each girl if they knew where they were standing in the restroom in order to see Lookhart in the hallway. He also asked them to say where Lookhart was standing in the hall.

Neither could give a precise location.Principal Clint Weimer testified that he was told by the teacher about the alleged incident and investigated.

Weimer testified that he found out it was possible by standing in a certain place and at a certain angle in the hallway to look inside the restroom to see the mirror and reflections of part of the restroom.

Weimer testified he looked at surveillance footage and gave it to investigating Kiski Township police officer Seth Hosak. The officer brought the footage to court and assisted Assistant District Attorney Cindy Lee Calarie to show it to Andring on a laptop.

A 10- to 15-second segment shows Lookhart walking past the restroom, but George argued it wasn't clear from the tape if he was looking at the restroom in passing or elsewhere.

George argued it didn't show him stopping in front of the restroom.

He said the mirrors are not floor-to-ceiling mirrors, but instead extend about 2½-feet above the sinks and offer only a shallow angle for people in the hall to see inside.

George didn't call witnesses, but successfully argued that seven counts each of open lewdness and unlawful contact with a minor be dismissed.

Lookhart, who doesn't have a record, remains free awaiting trial.

After the hearing, Weimer said the restroom will remain closed until the case is resolved.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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