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Former elementary teacher charged with inappropriately touching children

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MOORESVILLE, NC (WBTV) -

A former elementary school teacher has been arrested after investigators say he inappropriately touched young children inside his fourth grade classroom.

According to the Iredell County Sheriff's Office, 65-year-old John Thomas Patterson Jr. was arrested on Friday by the county's Special Victim's Unit.

Patterson made his first court appearance Monday morning and is out on bond.

He has been charged with 14 counts of Taking Indecent Liberties with Children. 

The Sheriff's Office says these charges are for one case when Patterson allegedly victimized a former student, who claims the crimes occurred in 1986 and 1987 while he was in Patterson's 4th grade class at Mount Mourne Elementary School.

Deputies say these charges stem from a five month investigation after a concerned citizen came to the Iredell County Sheriff's Office, and reported they had information that Tom Patterson had touched several children inappropriately.

Investigators tell WBTV that throughout the investigation, other possible victims have come forward. As the investigation continues, it is probable that more charges will be filed against Patterson.

Deputies say the victims alleged that many of the sexual assaults occurred in the classroom, while others occurred in different locations.   

Neighbors on East Stewart Avenue where Patterson lives say the image investigators are painting isn't that of the man they know.

"Great guy actually goes to Church everyday" says Chris Bonaventure, who lives next door to Patterson. "Actually works with the church - goes every week to do stuff for hungry kids or people with no clothes - he's a great guy. I'm shocked to hear the charges."

Dallas Mesimer, who lives across the street from the former teacher, says "the accusations and charges that have come forward, you know, you want to think good of all your neighbors."

Mesimer says Patterson is very neighborly. "He walks up and down the street - would give me vegetables if he had some."

The Sheriff's Office is working together with Iredell Statesville Schools to gather information about students who attended Mount Mourne School during this time. 

Anyone with information is urged to contact the Iredell County Sheriff's Office at 704-878-3183.

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