ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A longtime school janitor has been charged with peeping at an 11-year-old student while he was in a bathroom stall, and the criminal complaint alleges a number of similar past incidents.
Walter Johann Happel, 62, of Newport, Minn., was working as a janitor at Linwood Monroe Arts Plus School when, on Feb. 19, he allegedly stuck his head both over and below the partition of a stall being used by a student in the boy’s bathroom and smiled at the student.
The student said he remained on the toiled until the man left, and then he told his teacher about the incident. The next day, Happel was put on paid administrative leave and handed over his keys and badge.
He was told he was not allowed to report back to work until further notice, but later that afternoon employees caught him back on campus. The complaint says he had items placed on a dolly, which authorities later discovered he was keeping in a secret room. Among the items found in the room were a number of sexual aids, including topical intensifying gel, as well as Stimulean energy and testosterone pills.
Investigators soon found out that Happel was also involved in previous incidents at Roosevelt Elementary School. One boy accused Happel of following him into the bathroom on a regular basis during the school year. The complaint says he would give students candy.
In 2011, a student reported that Happel was making him uncomfortable, and another student said that he had been slapped on the buttocks by the janitor, the complaint says. Police say Happel was reprimanded for both incidents and told he could only use the staff restrooms.
After the most recent incident, investigators say they were informed of other bathroom incidents by previous students. One said that Happel would refer to the size of his own genitals. Another claimed to have seen someone they believe was Happel looking at him through a vent while the student was sitting on the toilet.
Happel told police that these allegations were lies, and that students were purposefully making a mess in the bathrooms. He also denied talking about the size of his genitals to a student while standing at the urinals next to him.
He resigned from Linwood Monroe Arts on Feb. 26.
He now faces charges of surreptitious interference with privacy, which carries with it a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine upon conviction.