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Widening sex abuse probe leads to additional charges for St. Patrick Interparish School employees

(File photo/WUFT News)

Two employees of an Alachua County Catholic school embroiled in a child sex abuse scandal are facing additional charges after Gainesville police filed a slew of new complaints in Alachua County Circuit Court Monday.

Christopher Charles Chell, 46, a former physical education teacher at St. Patrick Interparish School, was arrested on March 7, a week after his firing. Chell was initially charged with 10 counts of lewd or lascivious molestation of a minor.

On Monday, Chell was hit with nine new charges — six counts of an authority figure engaging in lewd conduct, two more counts of lewd or lascivious molestation of a minor and one count of child cruelty.

Police are also charging assistant principal Ryan Michael Clemens, 41, with five additional criminal charges.

Clemens was initially charged with destroying evidence and child neglect. The latest charges include one count of giving a false statement, two counts of failing to report child abuse as an administrator and two additional counts of child neglect.

Clemens’ failure to promptly report Chell to authorities allowed Chell to harm another student, police said. The alleged offense occurred after the first report of abuse but before Chell’s eventual firing on Feb 28.

Clemens was fired from his position the day after his arrest, according to a report from WCJB.

Clemens first learned of Chell’s behavior on Feb. 20 when a seventh-grade student reported that Chell had asked the student to be in a secret relationship, police said.

When Clemens confronted Chell in a closed-door meeting, he denied the allegations, according to the complaint.

The next day, Clemens overheard Chell admitting to a co-worker that he did ask a student to enter a secret relationship, police said. When confronted by Clemens, Chell told him he was “joking,” police said.

Later that week, Clemens reportedly received a complaint from an employee who said Chell’s behavior with students made them uncomfortable.

When Clemens did file a report with the Department of Children and Families on Feb. 23, he told investigators he believed Chell engaged in no wrongdoing. Due to Chell’s statement, DCF decided not to investigate, police said

Several days later, three sixth-grade students approached Clemens and reported that Chell engaged in behavior ranging from inappropriate remarks to inappropriate touching. The students told Clemens they were concerned Chell was a “pedophile,” police said.

On Feb. 28, the day after another student reported being victimized by Clemens, Chell was fired.

One 12-year-old victim recalled Chell frequently hugging the students he deemed his “favorites.” Due to the frequency of the hugs, it quickly made the hugs a daily expectation. Chell eventually began to move his hand down the student’s back lower and lower each day, as one victim described, “very low, like, very, very low.”

One victim described an incident that happened in mid-to-late January where Chell used his “entire hand” to “grab” and “squeeze” their buttocks to the point of causing physical pain.

Another 12-year-old victim also described a similar incident where Chell made statements about controlling their athletic career, then going on to hug the student and squeeze their buttock to the point of causing physical pain, according to an affidavit.

A fifth-grade student described an incident on Jan. 21. The victim received an award, and Chell approached the student for a hug after the award ceremony.

“It wasn't a normal hug,” the fifth-grader told police. “He touched somewhere he shouldn't have touched.”

After Chell was fired, Clemens told law enforcement that he had removed and disposed of written communication between Chell and one of the victims from Chell’s office.

Clemens was arrested on Mar. 17 and released on a $60,000 bond, according to court records.

Chell, whose bond is $1,000,000, remains in the Alachua County jail.

Gainesville Police Department detectives encourage anyone with knowledge of the alleged crimes to contact them at 352-393-7734.

Richard is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing