Editor's note: Story has been updated with comment from a spokesman for the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney.
Photo by Doyle Murphy
Zachary Retzlaff, a former Principia School employee, learned on Monday that prosecutors are dropping statutory rape charges against him.
St. Louis County prosecutors have dropped charges against a former Principia School employee accused of sexually abusing an underage student.
Zachary Retzlaff embraced his attorney, John Schleiffarth, on Monday morning outside a St. Louis County courtroom after learning the news.
"You're a free man," Schleiffarth told widowed father of three.
Retzlaff was working as the director of telecommunications for the Christian Science-based private school when he began a relationship with the sixteen-year-old daughter of a Principia teacher, authorities claimed. In a civil lawsuit later filed against the school, the girl's parents claimed Retzlaff had illicit sex with their daughter more than 40 times, including BDSM acts. He was also accused of hosting group sex parties for teens.
The parents later abandoned that case, but the girl's mother filed another last month, alleging the school fired her for reporting Retzlaff
He was criminally charged in July 2015 with statutory rape after the student's parents reported him to police. But the case was complicated from the beginning. The girl, who is now over eighteen, filed a restraining order against her parents and had refused to testify against Retzlaff.
Schleiffarth says prosecutors were faced with an uncooperative witness. He praised them for dropping the case.
"My client has always maintained his innocence, and we're pleased with the outcome," the attorney says.
A spokesman for the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney says they had no other option but to drop the case when the alleged victim refused to cooperate.
"You can't go forward without the victim in cases like this," spokesman Ed Magee says.
Retzlaff says the case was never what was reported.
"It was overblown fabrications, and I'm glad it's over," he says.
Photo by Doyle Murphy
Former Principia School employee Zachary Retzlaff and his attorney, John Schleiffarth, say prosecutors were right to drop statutory rape charges.
He no longer has any contact with the teen, Retzlaff says. "As far as the future, I have no idea."
He says he'll concentrate on raising his children, whose mother died in 2014, and trying to rebuild his life. He says he won't return to his job at Principia and worries about finding work, given the accusations.
"All a H.R. person has to do is google my name and believe what they read," he says.
We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at email@example.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.