A twisted Florida high school teacher repeatedly had sex with a 16-year-old female student in a classroom closet, police said.
Wayne McKenzie Ricks II, a 29-year-old special education teacher and boys’ junior varsity basketball coach at Haines City High School, was arrested late Tuesday on 10 counts of custodial sexual battery dating back to last fall, police said.
Ricks, of Kissimmee, allegedly had the teen visit his classroom, where he victimized her in a closet after texting during school hours and authorizing passes for her to leave class.
“Another student and friend of the victim would be present in the classroom at the time and recalled observing the two walk into the closet to have sex on about 10 occasions,” police said in a statement.
Ricks is also accused of spending time with the teen off-campus as far back as October. Investigators found video of the pair at Universal Studios in Orlando during its Halloween Horror Nights special event and Ricks gave the girl more than 20 handwritten notes detailing their illicit relationship — signing them with an alias, police said.
Ricks and the girl allegedly spoke on the phone more than 80 times during a one-month span between December and January. He also showered the teen with gifts including shoes, clothing and exercise equipment, cops said.
“This case of grooming serves as a reminder for parents to remain vigilant about who their children are around,” Haines City Police Chief James Elensky said. “We will work diligently to make sure this predator is held responsible.”
An investigation by launched by police when a relative of the teen contacted investigators, police said.
Ricks, who was hired by the school in August, earned nearly $41,000 annually. He resigned on Saturday and police said he had no prior disciplinary action in his file with Polk County Public Schools.
District officials told police they followed “standard procedures” while hiring Ricks, who was reportedly found not guilty in 2019 for allegedly sending a naked photo of himself to a student a year earlier while teaching at Poinciana High School in Kissimmee.
A jury in Osceola County found Ricks, who denied the accusation, not guilty of transmission of material harmful to minors by electronic device or equipment by a school authority figure, the Orlando Sentinel reported in June 2019.
He was also found not guilty of harassing a victim, witness or informant, while a third charge – unlawful use of a two-way communication device – was not prosecuted. Ricks had resigned one day prior to be arrested, the newspaper reported.
Ricks remained held without bail Thursday at the Osceola County Jail, online records show. It’s unclear if he’s hired an attorney who could speak on his behalf.