Seven months ago, a veteran Montgomery County Public School music teacher was arrested in Baltimore and charged with possessing child pornography. Administrators said at the time they had no reason to believe that Montgomery County students were in any of the photos.
But as details from court records have emerged, the accusations against Lawrence Wesley Joynes have evolved into a decades-long tale of sex abuse.
Joynes, who has been in custody in Baltimore since his arrest earlier this year, faces 14 counts of sex abuse of a minor — each count represents a victim — for incidents that took place at New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring. He also faces a sex offense charge and a count of second-degree rape connected with a 15th victim at Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring. If sentenced to the maximum penalty for the charges, Joynes would serve 445 years in prison.
James Dills, a public defender representing Joynes in Baltimore on the child pornography charges, declined to comment on the charges against his client. He did not know when Joynes would be brought to Montgomery County or who would be defending him against the charges he faces here.
Since the investigation into Joynes began in October 2012, police have uncovered more than 4,000 photos of young girls, many in sexually suggestive positions, including photos of Montgomery County Public School students, according to Joynes’ charging documents. Police documents state that Joynes inculcated a group of special students, his “lunch bunch,” to engage in sexually suggestive behavior while he photographed and videotaped them.
The children were in kindergarten through second grade. In one case, Joynes maintained a lengthy sexually abusive relationship with a seventh grader — who had confided to him that she had been abused before they met, according to the charging documents.
Joynes, 54, worked in 11 county public schools as a music teacher over the last 27 years, the last 10 at New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring. School system spokesman Dana Tofig said Joynes spent the majority of his career at four schools around Silver Spring: Francis Scott Key Middle, Eastern Middle, Cannon Road Elementary and New Hampshire Estates.
According to Joynes’ arrest report, he became enmeshed in a federal investigation in October 2012, when Homeland Security investigators recovered emails between Joynes and a South Carolina man.
That led federal agents, along with Baltimore and Montgomery police, to Joynes’ Dundalk home on Feb. 27, when they arrested him trying to leave through the back door.
Joynes said he would videotape his students and when watching the tapes, he would visualize the students performing oral sex on him, the documents said. The alleged incidents took place with students who attended the school from between 2005 to 2013.
At New Hampshire Estates Elementary School, police obtained Joynes’ personnel file, and learned that in 2010, a parent had told the school’s principal that Joynes had asked her daughter if the second-grader wanted to crawl into his lap, and if the girl dreamed about him.
A little over a year later, a first-grader told her mother that Joynes had tickled her during class. As a result of those two incidents, the school’s principal ordered in November 2011 that Joynes only conduct activities in public areas, keep the classroom door open during instruction, stay off the playground during recess, not sit at the cafeteria with students at lunch, and not to touch students “in any form,” according to his charging documents.
In total, investigators found exploitative videos and photos of 14 of his students. In interviews with police, one of the girls recalled him abusing her when she was 5 years old, according to the documents.
In May, after seeing photos of Joynes published in the news, a woman came forward and told investigators that Joynes had sexually abused her in the 1990s when she was a student at Eastern Middle School, according to police documents.
The victim, now an adult, told police that Joynes began sexually abusing her when she was in seventh grade.
“Joynes told the victim that he loved her and would take care of her. Joynes talked about God and the victim felt safe with Joynes and they performed a mock commitment ceremony,” according to the police statement of probable cause.
The abuse started as kissing, but progressed to other sex acts, police said. It began in the second half of her seventh grade year through the end of her eighth grade year, the records show.
Joynes communicated with the girl in letters written in a code which he had taught her; he also had her name tattooed on her right shoulder, investigators wrote.
At some point during that two-year period, John Goodloe, principal at Eastern for much of the time that Joynes taught there, asked the girl about the music teacher, but she denied any inappropriate activity, according to the arrest records.
Reached via phone Tuesday, Goodloe said he had asked her because he had noticed an “inordinate amount of communication” between the girl and Joynes.
Goodloe, who is now pastor at a church in Northwest Washington, D.C., said the girl told him “everything was fine.”
Goodloe said he had been surprised by the news. He remembers Joynes being “a throwback from the flower child ’60s period.”
“I wish perhaps that she had given some indication to me or the dean of students or someone else that there was a problem or that there could have been a problem. I don’t fault her for this,” he said.
In 2005, after Joynes had left Eastern Middle School and moved to New Hampshire Estates Elementary, the victim tried to confront Joynes and found a website he ran called “Bearded Wolf.” according to court documents. The website is not currently viewable online.
She emailed him, demanding he “take responsibility” for his actions. Not long after, Joynes used the website to fake his own death, posting a note saying that he had committed suicide along with a death certificate, documents state.
The victim initially believed the posting, but contacted Montgomery County Public Schools in 2009 and discovered Joynes was in fact alive.
The news of the allegations left parents stunned.
“Nobody wants to talk about [the abuse],” said Vanessa Pinto, a member of New Hampshire Estates Elementary’s Parent Teacher Association. “I’m really worried, because I’m afraid that we’re going to forget about this issue after these thing happens ... until next time,” she said. “I hope we receive support from the county.”
Pinto said she worries there may be other victims who have not come forward because of the stigma of the abuse and because the topic is “taboo.”
In a June 11 confidential memo, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr wrote to members of the county Board of Education about a new plan — involving a confidential database with an alert system — that would “improve the process for tracking and managing information regarding allegations of inappropriate interactions between Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) employees and students.”
Tofig said discussions regarding these changes were going on last year and that implementation of the new process is planned to start this year.
“This process improvement is the result of studying several cases alleging the occurrence of inappropriate behavior,” Starr said in the memo.
Staff writer Lindsay Powers contributed to this report.