South Bay News

Santa Cruz CASA volunteer arrested for child molestation

Friday, October 18, 2013
, Ama Daetz biography
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In the Santa Cruz Mountains there is a case of broken trust. A man who was supposed to protect for the interest of children is instead being accused of preying on them. He's been a youth counselor, advocate and a coach. Now there is another label from police -- molester.

Brian Criswell of Santa Cruz is in jail accused of child molestation. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's office says he engaged in illegal conduct with two minors while volunteering for the county's CASA program. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. Volunteers offer friendship and support for abused and neglected children and make sure the child's needs are met.

Before being sworn in as officer of the court, a prospective volunteer faces an extensive background check. CASA's executive director says they dismissed Criswell as soon as they learned about the investigation. He'd been a volunteer since 2008.

"Anyone that would do harm to a child or take part in this type of criminal behavior really has no business in being near children, let alone volunteering at a child advocacy organization," said Cynthia Druley, the executive director of CASA of Santa Cruz County.

The sheriff's office believes there may be more victims out there because of Criswell's contact with kids. He helped coach the wrestling teams at two local schools.

Criswell volunteered with the Harbor High School wrestling team during the 2012-13 school year. That same year, he was hired as wrestling coach at Branciforte Middle School. The district says it never received any complaints of inappropriate behavior by Criswell.

Criswell is expected to be arraigned early next week.

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santa cruz, santa cruz county, watsonville, sex crimes, child abuse, children, south bay news, ama daetz
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