This should be a dead man.
Los Angeles (CNN) -- Bond was set at $23 million
Wednesday for a Los Angeles elementary school teacher who allegedly took
bondage photos of more than two dozen students in his classroom -- $1
million for each of the 23 counts he faces of lewd acts on a child.
The 400 photographs collected by investigators include some showing
suspected semen-filled spoons at the children's mouths, a sheriff's
Mark Berndt, 61, appeared briefly before a Los Angeles judge for his
initial court appearance Wednesday morning, represented by a
court-appointed public defender.
His next court appearance was set for February 21.
Authorities arrested Berndt at his home Monday, and charged him with
the 23 felony counts.
"I feel for those parents and for those babies -- those helpless
babies," Wanda Mosley, a resident who lives near Miramonte Elementary
School, told CNN affiliate KABC.The chilling accusations were a stunning betrayal for many parents.
"I'm angry. I'm disgusted. I'm sad," Kimberly Kirklin told the
The probe started when a film processor gave investigators "over 40
photographs depicting children in a school classroom, with their eyes
blindfolded and mouths covered with tape," a Los Angeles County
Sheriff's statement said.
"Investigators learned that some of the photos depicted suspect Mark
Berndt with his arm around the children, or with his hand over their
mouths," it said.
Some photos show female students with "what appeared to be a blue
plastic spoon, filled with an unknown clear/white liquid substance, up
to their mouths as if they were going to ingest the substance," the
Other photos showed "children with large live Madagascar-type
cockroaches on their faces and mouths," it said.
Investigators, who interviewed more than 80 current and former
students and school employees, identified 23 boys and girls then between
the ages of 7 and 10 years old as alleged victims in crimes that are
believed to have been committed between 2005 and 2010, it said.
The young students "didn't realize they were victimized," sheriff's
Sgt. Dan Scott said.
"They thought they were being blindfolded and gagged as a game," he
said. "And they were rewarded with cookies or spoons full of sugar (but)
they did not realize the spoon contained semen."
The photographs also showed "a large 3-inch cockroach that would
crawl on their face," Scott said.
A search of Berndt's home found more than 100 more similar
photographs depicting children and a video depicting adult sexual
"bondage" activity "which mirrored the bondage-type photos of the
children," investigators said.
The film processor later gave investigators an additional 250
photographs, authorities said.
About 10 children seen in the more than 400 images have not yet been
identified, they said.
The investigation began more than a year ago, officials said.
"Early in the investigation, Special Victims Bureau detectives
recovered a blue plastic spoon and an empty container from the trash
within the suspect's classroom," the sheriff's statement said. "The
recovered items tested positive for semen."
The arrest came soon after lab testing matched Berndt's DNA with
semen found on the spoon, Scott said.
Investigators did not reveal the contents of the fluid to the
children or tell them that the case involved child molestation
allegations, he said.
The 30-year teaching veteran was removed from his job at the south
Los Angeles on January 7, 2011, the day the sheriff's department told
the school district about the investigation, Los Angeles School
Superintendent John Deasy said.
"I am sickened and horrified by the behavior of Mark Berndt. This
individual and his conduct do not reflect on the quality of the teachers
who work so hard on behalf of the students in the Los Angeles Unified
School District," Deasy said in a written statement.
CNN was not able to identify or reach Berndt's lawyer until
Wednesday's initial hearing.
A neighbor who identified himself as "John" to CNN affiliates told
KTLA that he had known Berndt for years.
"I said 'My God, he's been kind of freaky all these years I've known
him. The way he talks and moves. I said, 'I'm not surprised.'"The CNN link for the video:
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