NAMPA — A former Nampa Spanish teacher was sentenced Wednesday to 17 years in prison after pleading guilty in October to one count of lewd conduct with a child under 16.
Keith Odell Peterson, 71, was arrested in April on a $500,000 bond following an investigation by Nampa police. The victim in the case, who was not a student of Peterson’s, told officers Peterson inappropriately touched him on multiple occasions for nearly two years.
Initially, Peterson faced an additional count of sexual battery of a minor. But that charge was dismissed as part of a plea agreement, which Peterson accepted Oct. 23, according to the Idaho online courts repository. He is eligible for parole after serving seven years in prison.
The victim and his parents spoke at Wednesday’s Canyon County Courthouse hearing, where they explained the abuse and its impact on their family to District Judge Christopher S. Nye.
The victim’s mother said she and her husband met Peterson — who often went by his middle name, Odell — through their church in the 1990s and forged a decades-long friendship between their two families.
She told the court Peterson evolved into a grandfather-like figure to her teenage son when her own father passed away. Peterson took the boy to sporting events at Boise State University, movies, shopping and dinner.
Peterson also helped with homework and allowed the victim to drive his truck without a license, according to the victim. There, the 71-year-old would grope the boy’s genitals as he drove — sometimes with other people in the car.
“Grandpas don’t treat anyone the way you treated our son,” the victim’s mother said through tears. “You’ve put our son and family through so much hell, heartache and sadness. … I trusted you. I believed you were taking care of my son.”
The victim, now 17, said Peterson started inappropriately touching him when he was 15 years old. The abuse came after years of grooming and gifts.
He said Peterson apologized at first and told the boy it wouldn’t happen again, but it did on several occasions. The victim said he didn’t tell anyone because he was scared and ashamed.
“I kept trying to tell him ‘No,’” the victim said. “Eventually, I gave up on saying ‘No’ and just let it continue.”
The victim said he even considered taking his own life as an escape from Peterson. He felt depressed and couldn’t concentrate, causing his grades to drop significantly.
It was only after his parents recommended counseling that the abuse came to light after the victim’s first session, launching the investigation by Nampa police.
In a recorded phone call with officers, the victim said he was able to get Peterson to admit to inappropriately touching and stalking him.
“I’m a survivor of sexual abuse,” the youth said. “You took two years of my life. … It is finally time for you to be served justice and to be held accountable for the actions that you have done to me and all of your other victims.”
After the family spoke, Peterson addressed them directly and apologized for his actions. He also apologized to his wife, who sat in tears directly behind him.
Peterson said he appreciated their friendship and hoped the family could forgive him one day.
“I take full responsibility for what I have done. I’m the adult,” Peterson said. “I’m deeply sorry.”
Peterson taught Spanish in the Nampa School District several years ago, and because of his past access to children, police at the time were concerned there may be more victims, according to an Idaho Press report from May. But Peterson’s attorney said no additional allegations have been made against his client in nearly 30 years.
Court records state Peterson was granted withheld judgement in a 1991 case where he had inappropriate sexual contact with a different victim, whose age wasn’t specified in the criminal complaint.
At the time, Peterson was sentenced to 180 days suspended jail time and two years of probation, court records state. Since he “successfully completed his probation and has fully complied with all terms and provisions,” the battery charge was dismissed in 1998.