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Midland arts center suspends accused sex predator

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Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, 12:31 a.m.
 

For seven years, Theodore Mamel worked as a technician, repairing pianos used by charter school students at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland.

Wednesday night, he was arrested in Belle Vernon by Southwest Regional Police after he allegedly tried to meet someone he believed was a 14-year-old girl for sex.

Mamel was actually communicating online with an undercover police officer in Belle Vernon.

Mamel, 64, of 2872 Pierce St., Export, is charged with two counts of unlawful contact with a minor and one count each of sexual abuse of children/dissemination of child pornography, sexual abuse of children, and criminal use of a communications facility in the commission of a felony.

He is in the Fayette County Jail in lieu of $250,000 straight cash bond and faces a preliminary hearing 10 a.m. Feb. 21 before Magisterial District Judge Richard Kasunic in Perry Township.

Sal Aloe, Lincoln Park Center for the Performing Arts managing director, said Mamel – known to him as “Theo” – has been employed by the center since 2007.

The day after Mamel's arrest, Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School officials attempted to distance themselves from him.

Christina Zarek, director of communications for the National Network of Digital Schools, told The Valley Independent Mamel was not an employee of the charter school.

But Aloe acknowledged that the center and the charter school have a close working relationship. In Mamel's case, he did work in the school setting of the center, fixing pianos owned by the center which the charter school students used. All of his work on the pianos was performed after school hours, Aloe said.

Aloe said the charter school rents space from the center to conduct classes.

“There is a defined space within the center where students take classes,” Aloe said.

Both the center and the charter school have mailing addresses of One Lincoln Park, Midland.

Aloe said Mamel had Act 33 Child Abuse Clearance and Act 34 Criminal Record Clearance.

“All of his clearances were good,” Aloe said. “That's why it was shock to us. First thing I did when I heard about this was to go and check that all of his clearances were good.”

Aloe said Mamel has been placed on leave without pay pending resolution of the criminal case.

Passwords for access to computers in the center have been changed, in part to ensure Mamel does not have access to them. His keycard has been disabled.

Police said most of the IP addresses used by Mamel are public. But they noted that on one occasion, Mamel used a Wi-Fi connection registered to the Midland School District.

Noting that it was not a public IP address, Southwest Regional asked Mamel how he got access to that Wi-Fi connection.

Mamel allegedly told police, “one of the connections I used was that of my employer, Lincoln Park Center for the Performing Arts. Lincoln Park is a public charter school.”

Mamel told police he used the Wi-Fi connection while sitting outside the school. Mamel denied he had communication with any students in that school.

The investigation

On Jan. 8, Mamel posted on Craigslist an advertisement seeking “girls that want to try some taboo sex,” according to an affidavit of probable cause.

On Jan. 9, Southwest Regional responded to the on-line ad, posing as a 14-year-old girl. From Jan. 14 through 17, Mamel spoke online with the officer and sent pornographic images of juveniles to the person he believed to be a “teen,” according to the affidavit.

On Feb. 10, Mamel said he would like to meet the “girl.”

The “meeting” was to take place Wednesday, but instead police stopped Mamel in the 200 block of Main Street. At that point, Southwest Regional Chief John Hartman asked Mamel if he was communicating with a young girl from Belle Vernon and the defendant nodded his head and said, “Can I have one of your guns so I can just shoot myself?”

Police seized a laptop in Mamel's car, which allegedly contains pornographic photographs of juveniles.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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