A Catholic school teacher has been found guilty of having sexual relations with two female teenage students.
Randi Zurenko, 34, pleaded guilty to more than 200 child sex offenses before begging a Pennsylvania judge for leniency on Thursday. Zurenko, who is married, cited concern over her five young children, asking that they be considered as the judge decided on sentencing.
Zurenko was a teacher at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg when, according to police, she sexually abused two 16 and 17-year-old girls. The abuses occurred hundreds of times, police say.
Zurenko faced multiple charges of institutional sexual assault, unlawful contact with minors, corruption of minors, possessing child pornography and disseminating obscene materials to minors.
According to police, Zurenko manipulated at least one victim psychologically, and gave the minors alcohol.
Victim 1 said in court that over the course of Zurenko’s abuse, she’d felt “confused and abandoned and trapped” and that she couldn’t trust anyone. “You took everything that was mine,” she said. “You took my innocence.”
The Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office said Victim 1, who was underage at the time, was abused between January of 2013 to October of 2016.
Victim 2 was abused between 2015 to 2016, and the abuse allegedly continued to occur within four days of Zurenko’s arrest.
A statement released by the DA’s office said that Zurenko admitted to providing both girls alcohol while they were students at Bishop McDevitt. She also admitted that she had a sexual relationship with, and took nude photographs of Victim 2.
After her arrest, Bishop McDevitt immediately suspended Zurenko.
“I am ashamed to be here,” Zurenko said in court. She said she didn’t coerce or take advantage of anyone.
At sentencing, Zurenko asked the judge, Richard A. Lewis, “for grace and mercy.” Her lawyer, Lee Cohen, asked that Zurenko be sentenced to house arrest, and argued that she’d been “truly in love with her victims.”
While Judge Lewis said he considered Zurenko’s children, he was also concerned about the pain the two victims endured, saying Zurenko had a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality.
Zurenko will be jailed for up to 23 months, will be subject to four years probation and must register as a sex offender for 25 years.
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