A California junior high school drama teacher accused of molesting students on the job apparently took his own life Wednesday morning—the same day a prosecutor and his attorney were scheduled to begin closing arguments in his trial.
David Michael Bruce, 68, was found deceased in his Anaheim area home, the Orange County Register reports, citing authorities. Although his death is considered a “suspected” suicide by police, an autopsy will determine the official cause.
Bruce was “charged with nine felony counts of lewd acts upon a child under 14 and two felony counts of lewd acts on a child age 14 or 15,” according to a 2015 news release by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Police say the alleged incidents occurred between 1996 and 2011, when Bruce was suspected of sexually assaulting six students between 11 and 14 years old. He allegedly committed “lewd acts upon the victims, including touching the victims’ genitals and buttocks, and engaging in oral copulation with at least one victim,” according to the release.
The suspicions came to light after a sibling of one of the victims reported the crime to officials, police said. The Anaheim Police Department subsequently investigated the case and Bruce was arrested in September 2015. Authorities released him from custody on the same day after he posted $100,000 bail.
The investigation uncovered additional victims, according to officials, who said the suspect was re-arrested less than a month later “on a $1 million arrest warrant.”
While working as a drama teacher at Sycamore Junior High School in Anaheim, Bruce reportedly coerced students into believing “he had Hollywood connections” and could assist them in obtaining industry jobs, KTLA reports, citing prosecutors.
The suspect is thought to have taken male students to tapings in Los Angeles, as well as to his own home―where he would allegedly act as if he was going to massage them, but instead moved on to molest them.
“The defendant basically has an obsession with male buttocks,” Deputy District Attorney Rick Zimmer reportedly said in opening statements, adding that the allegations included “a lot of rubbing, touching and spanking the buttocks of these victims.”
An attorney for the suspected child molester “argued that the boys were either fantasizing or were lying and hoped to cash in on lawsuits,” according to the news station.
Bruce faced a maximum sentence of 125 years to life behind bars, however, the district attorney’s office dismissed the case because of his death.
[Feature photo: David Bruce/Anaheim Police Department]