Accused Valley Home ex-school chief dies

Hart had been arrested on sexual abuse charges

pguerra@modbee.comMay 13, 2013 

Thomas Kevin Hart

Thomas Kevin Hart, arrested July 6, 2011, by Oakdale Police Dept.

UNKNOWN — Oakdale Police Dept

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— A former school district administrator accused of sexually abusing two children died over the weekend.

Thomas Kevin Hart, 60, died Sunday morning, defense attorney Patrick Clancy said.

Hart was the Valley Home Joint School District superintendent and principal when he was arrested in 2011 on two charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child younger than 14.

Hart had been unable to attend recent court hearings; Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff last month postponed a hearing to reschedule his trial until July.

With Hart's death, prosecutors will dismiss the case, Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said in an email.

"We would continue to assist the victims even though the court case went away," she said.

The alleged victims in the case were not Valley Home students. The school board placed Hart, also known as Kevin Hart, on unpaid compulsory leave in August 2011 and has since hired a replacement.

The criminal complaint alleged that the abuse took place from Aug. 1, 2009, to June 17, 2011; testimony in a preliminary hearing alleged that the acts occurred at Hart's Oakdale home as he was bathing the children, a girl and a boy, in a laundry room sink.

Hart's defense attorney argued that his client was cleaning fecal matter from the children and that there was no evidence of sexual intent.

Hart, who had been free on $250,000 bail, died in a nursing home, Clancy said. The attorney would not elaborate on the nature of Hart's illness or cause of death but said Hart had been eager to get court proceedings under way.

"He was anxious to go to trial," Clancy said. "He had probably the best case I've ever had, and I've had about 250 of these.

"He was pushing to get his trial. He wanted to clear his name."

Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.

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