Special prosecutor appointed in case involving alleged sex crimes at Raintree Montessori School; defense attorney hopes to resolve case without trial

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Raintree Montessori School, 4601 Clinton Parkway, pictured on July 8, 2022.

A special prosecutor has been appointed to handle the case of a former Raintree Montessori School employee who’s accused of committing child sex crimes at the school, and the ex-employee’s attorney hopes to resolve the case without going to trial.

Mateo Emilio Clavel Wills, 20, is charged with four counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child under the age of 14 — two counts involving a 3-year-old and two counts involving a 4-year-old, according to charging documents. The charges are off-grid felonies and could result in life in prison if Wills were convicted.

On Wednesday in Douglas County District Court, Wills’ attorney, Angela Keck, said that she had been pursuing criminal mediation in the case in hope of avoiding trial.

Details on the mediation attempt, including when it began and who is involved in it other than Keck, have not been made public, and Judge Sally Pokorny said she had the impression that the process wasn’t progressing smoothly. Pokorny said it appeared that “all attempts to resolve the case had failed.”

But Keck said she intended to keep trying — this time with the new special prosecutor who’s been appointed in the case.

The special prosecutor is Jeannette Wolpink, who works for the prosecutor’s office in Jackson County, Missouri, according to court records filed Tuesday. It’s not clear why a special prosecutor had to be appointed or whether there was a conflict in the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office that necessitated that. The Journal-World reached out to the DA’s office via email, and spokesperson Cheryl Cadue said the office was unable to comment.

Keck said she hoped to renew her efforts to negotiate a resolution once Wolpink was up to speed on the case.

The Journal-World reached out to Keck to try to get more details about how the case has progressed, but had not received a response as of Wednesday evening. Keck is the second defense attorney to work on the case, according to court records. She was appointed in August 2022 to take over from Michael Clarke. Court records don’t indicate why Clarke is no longer working on the case.

In general, little information has been available about Wills’ case since his arrest in July 2022.

Prosecutors have alleged that the crimes occurred between November 2021 and July 2022 at Raintree, 4601 Clinton Parkway, when Wills was a part-time child care worker at the school. But more specific details of the allegations have not been made public. The arrest affidavit in the case, which would have detailed the evidence police gathered in support of Wills’ arrest, was sealed by Chief Judge James McCabria in July 2022 on the grounds that releasing it “would jeopardize the mental or emotional safety or well-being of the victims and would interfere with any prospective criminal investigation of the matter.”

During Wills’ first court appearance in July, Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden said that Wills was responsible for watching children during nap time, which is when the crimes are alleged to have happened. At that time, Seiden said that prosecutors expected to file additional charges related to the two children, and that they were investigating whether other children might have been affected. No additional charges had been filed as of Jan. 11, 2023, according to court records.

Many parents of Raintree students expressed anger and frustration after Wills’ arrest because they only learned of the allegations from reading the Journal-World. Some parents reached out to the Journal-World and said that the administration at Raintree failed to provide them with basic information, including that police had been at the school and whether or not Wills had interacted with their children.

At the time, Raintree officials said in an email to parents that they were directed by police not to share any information and that parents were to contact police with additional questions. The school later told parents in an email that it planned to provide regular updates about the matter, though some parents told the Journal-World last summer that they were not receiving updates. Weeks after Wills’ arrest, some Raintree parents said they set up their own support group with a representative from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to learn how to better communicate with their children and how to ask them about possible abuse.

Up next in Wills’ case, Pokorny has scheduled a motions hearing for March 3, where she will hear Keck’s request to suppress statements that Wills made to police at the time of his arrest. Keck asked for five hours for that motions hearing and said she had a psychologist lined up to testify.

Wills has been held in the Douglas County Jail on a $750,000 cash bond since his arrest on July 6, 2022.