Judge: Former Dover music teacher a sexually violent predator

Liz Evans Scolforo

A former Dover Area High School music teacher who is serving state and federal prison time for molesting children and possessing child pornography has been deemed to be a sexually violent predator.

Matthew Puterbaugh

On Wednesday, York County Common Pleas Judge Harry M. Ness issued his ruling for Matthew B. Puterbaugh, 48, formerly of Conewago Road in Dover Township.

The ruling means that once he's released, he will have to register as a sexually violent predator with state police for the rest of his life.

Ness's seven-page opinion cites conclusions from psychologist Robert Stein of the state's Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, who considered 15 factors under the state's Megan's Law to determine whether Puterbaugh should be designated a sexually violent predator.

Puterbaugh is serving a 15-year federal prison sentence for inappropriately touching and secretly videotaping multiple young girls without their permission, as well as for possessing hundreds of images of child pornography on his computer, the order states. He initially was charged in York County with all those crimes, but two of his three local cases were dropped when federal prosecutors took them and Puterbaugh pleaded guilty in federal court.

He also is serving a concurrent five- to 10-year state prison sentence after pleading guilty in York County Court in June to molesting one of his students.

Years of abuse: The girl was 12 years old when the sexual assaults began. She has sued both Puterbaugh and the Dover Area School District in federal court, alleging the district mishandled her original reports.

"The relationship continued and progressed until (she) was in approximately twelfth grade, with a sexual relationship beginning when she was in approximately eighth grade," Ness wrote.

The judge cited Puterbaugh's "escalating behavior ... exhibited over the years to manipulate the victim, and that the offending continued despite investigations into his misconduct in 2000 and 2004."

Ness also noted that Puterbaugh offended for more than a decade "with as many as 15 other teens, with sexual or uncomfortable/unwanted touching of five girls ages 12-13." The disgraced teacher used his position of power to victimize girls, the judge wrote.

Uncontrollable urges: Stein determined Puterbaugh "was either unwilling or unable to control the urges for sexual contact with young and teen girls," and would likely re-offend, Ness wrote.

"Even when confronted with allegations, (Puterbaugh) continued offending for several years," the judge's order states, noting there is "clear and convincing evidence" that Puterbaugh should be deemed a sexually violent predator.

In February 2014, Northern York County Regional Police filed 661 counts of possession of child pornography against Puterbaugh, which were later amended to seven all-encompassing felony counts.

Band director: Puterbaugh, who taught music and was band director at Dover Intermediate School, was initially placed on unpaid leave. In August 2014, the school board voted unanimously to fire him.

His attorney, Alan Goldberg, declined comment Thursday through a staff member.

Senior deputy prosecutor Chuck Murphy said he's happy with the judge's ruling and said the girls who came forward to report Puterbaugh were brave to do so.

"There are very good teachers everywhere, but there are going to be (exceptions)," he said, adding Puterbaugh's lengthy sentence — and the humiliation he brought to his family — could serve as a deterrent to others.

"Any teacher thinking about doing this might think twice," he said.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.