Neighbors of the Independence teacher charged with sex crimes against a student spoke out the day after charges were announced against him.
The band teacher accused of engaging in sexual activity with a 14-year-old student at William Chrisman High School may have gotten involved with her when she was in middle school, according to court records.
Neighbors said he was friendly and worked often in his yard.
"It makes me feel sick - I was shocked, absolutely shocked, when I heard it," Cathy Haggard said.
Haggard feels the way most of her neighbors felt when they heard 27-year-old James Owens, a married man and their new neighbor, had been charged with sexually enticing a 14-year-old girl.
"When I first heard the rumors I just didn't want to believe it because I had talked to him and he was so friendly and he seemed very nice," Haggard said.
"He had claimed that it was a case of mistaken identity is what he told me. I wanted to believe that, but was once the arrest came," neighbor Paul Rogers said.
Neighbors became concerned when Independence police arrested Owens and prosecutors charged him with child molestation.
"I think it is especially bad when a person of authority, like a teacher, babysitter or a priest, whatever - who a child trusts - it is the worst," Rogers said.
Jackson County prosecutors said Owens, a band teacher at William Chrisman High School, sent more than 1,500 texts to the girl, who was also a student, and made 100 phone calls. Detectives also discovered a partially nude picture of her on his cell phone.
"I have a 10- and 11-year-old daughter and it just makes me sick to think, what if he would have befriended them? I don't know, you know," Haggard said.
Haggard said she will begin talking to her own girls about inappropriate relationships.
"Neighbors, they are not like they used to be when I grew up," she said.
Court records indicate the events occurred as far back as April 2010, when the girl would have been 12.
Others have told KCTV5 News that Owens was also employed at George Caleb Bingham Middle School, but Independence school officials have not confirmed that information.
Click here to read previous coverage on this story.
Click here to read the court documents leading up to Owens' arrest. WARNING, some of the details in the documents are disturbing.
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