Week In Arlington

Week In Arlington

Custodian Pleads Guilty

Darrell Beckham, a former custodian at Randolph Elementary School, has plead guilty to sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl earlier this year.

On the afternoon of April 23, Beckham was accused of inappropriately touching a student who was waiting for a school bus at Randolph. Beckham had been held without bail in the Arlington County Detention Facility since the incident.

Earlier this summer, it appeared as though Beckham would fight the felony charge of aggravated sexual battery that he was faced with. He dismissed his court-appointed attorney and, despite severe financial troubles, secured his own private counsel.

But on July 23, Beckham plead guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge of sexual battery. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail but received six months of his sentence suspended for good behavior.

He also received credit for the time he had served while awaiting his trial, which was delayed several times. Beckham was released from jail on July 24, a day after entering his guilty plea.

Had Beckham been convicted of the felony aggravated sexual battery charge, he could have faced a 20-year prison sentence and a fine of $100,000.

Beckham was also placed on supervised probation for two years and was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation.

-David Schultz

School Employee Arrested

A temporary employee at Arlington Traditional Elementary School was arrested last week for propositioning a 13-year-old boy.

Jamal Anthony Wheeler, a 20-year-old Arlington man, is being charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor after, according to the police, he allegedly made sexually suggestive gestures to a boy waiting for a bus on the 4000 block of Lee Highway.

For the last several months of the school year, Wheeler worked as a substitute in the school’s extended day program, which allows children to engage in activities after school while they wait to be picked up. He was also an assistant in the school’s lunchroom.

Arlington Public Schools spokesperson Frank Bellavia said that, because he was a temporary employee, Wheeler’s employment was terminated shortly after his arrest.

Holly Hawthorne, the school’s principal, mailed a letter to parents detailing the actions the school is taking. She wrote that she was "shocked" to learn of the incident and that "We are unaware of any inappropriate actions by [Wheeler] while he was employed [by the school]."

Bellavia said that, even though Wheeler was a temporary employee, he still would have been required to go through the school system’s standard background checks before being hired. He also said that Arlington Public Schools is assisting the police in their investigation as to whether Wheeler has had any inappropriate contact with other children.

Anyone with any information that may be relevant to this investigation is asked to call Detective Tammy Celestini at 703-228-4208.

— David Schultz

OAR Earns Grant

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration announced that Offender Aid and Restoration, serving Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church, is one of 73 faith-based and community organizations that help hard-to-serve populations prepare for and succeed in employment opportunities in 28 states and the District of Columbia to receive a grant. OAR will receive $60,000. OAR was established in 1974 to work with inmates in the Arlington County and Alexandria Detention Facilities, and ex-offender returning to the community. Last year, OAR served just over 2200 clients, providing 700 individuals in the two facilities with educational, life-skills classes; managing the work of over 700 court-assigned Community Service clients; and providing re-entry assistance to over 1400 clients.