ANAHEIM, California — A retired junior high school drama teacher on trial for allegedly molesting his students was found dead in his home of an apparent suicide just before closing arguments in his case were set to begin.
David Michael Bruce, 68, was found dead after failing to appear in court in southern California as his case was winding to a close, authorities said.
Police said they suspected a suicide, but the official cause of death remained pending. Bruce had faced up to life in prison if he had been convicted.
Bruce was accused of molesting students over the course of 15 years at Sycamore Junior High in Anaheim. Prosecutors said Bruce would typically begin with massages before escalating the molestation.
“He would tell them he had Hollywood connections” and could help them get jobs in the film industry, Deputy District Attorney Rick Zimmer said in his opening statement of the trial, according to the Orange County Register.
“The defendant basically has an obsession with male buttocks,” he said, noting that the allegations included “a lot of rubbing, touching and spanking the buttocks of these victims.”
Police also allegedly found erotic photos of young boys in the teacher’s residence.
One of the boys was a special education student who would “hang out” with his teacher at lunch, according to the prosecutor, who said the educator gave the boy gifts such as an iPod and skateboard.
One of the alleged victims confided in his sister, “who actually is the reason this whole investigation got started,” Zimmer said. A custodian at the school reported he “walked in on the defendant massaging a student.”
Bruce’s attorney had argued his client’s accusers had histories of psychiatric issues and dishonesty and were hoping to cash in on lawsuits.