OLATHE, Kan. — Survivors and their parents are reacting after a former Overland Park private school teacher pleaded guilty Monday to more than 25 child sex crimes.
Prosecutors said he secretly recorded video of more than 100 young girls at St. Thomas Aquinas.
Police first discovered Joseph Heidesch hid cameras in a home to record lewd images of people without their permission. It was then discovered later in that same investigation that he had hid cameras in the school.
On Monday, Heidesch pleaded guilty to one felony count of sexual exploitation of a child and 25 counts of breach of privacy.
It was a moment Heather Townsend and her daughter had waited for over a year. The man who preyed on Jeannette Townsend when she was a high schooler has taken responsibility for his actions, they said.
“This has been a really long roller coaster of just like waiting and wondering. I’m really glad that we got some really deserved answers,” Jeanette said.
“There’s anger. I’m sad. I’m angry,” Heather said. “There aren’t any words. You never think this is going to happen to your child,” Heather said.
Heidesch pleaded guilty to a total of 26 counts — the felony sexual exploitation of the child being the most serious charge.
The plea agreement calls for Heidesch to serve 68 months, or 5 years and eight months, in a Kansas prison and cannot request probation. Heidesch will also have to register as a sex offender and cannot have any contact with the survivors.
Those survivors include Amber Burns who said the ordeal has stripped her trust in people.
“Talk about the struggles that I’ve had with my mental health and how it’s completely wrecked my people – all people of authority,” Burns said.
It’s taken the joys that she once loved and made them the things she won’t do anymore.
“It’s killed her high school experience. Choir was the best part of her high school experience. She doesn’t like to sing anymore,” said Amber’s mom, Michelle Burns.
Both women, who now are in college, chose to share their stories with us — in part to help others.
“Just stay strong and get through it. We all have each other. Don’t be afraid to lean on each other,” Amber said.
Their mothers are still upset but doing their best to take care and protect the souls that have been so badly hurt.
“How could you? How dare you do this not only my child, but every other victim and their families? How could you?” Heather said.
“Just hope and pray that he understands the pain and suffering and impact that this has had on these girls and will have forever,” Michelle said.
Heidesch is currently in Georgia being monitored while out on bond. His sentencing will take place on April 17 — and these women who now are survivors will get the opportunity then to talk directly to him.