Nighswonger bail set at $1M amid new Wasilla child-sex charges
A former Wasilla teacher accused of sexually abusing students is being held on seven figures’ worth of bail after prosecutors filed more than a dozen new charges against him last week.
Superior Court Judge Jonathan Woodman increased bail for Lukis Nighswonger, 36, to $1 million in cash Monday in Palmer court. Nighswonger already faces five counts of sexual abuse of a minor, but eight more counts were filed against him Friday, along with six counts of first-degree and second-degree sexual assault.
On Monday, Woodman heard from several victims' attorneys as well as Assistant District Attorney Melissa Wininger-Howard, who is prosecuting the case.
"All of the charges occurred in the classroom and most of the charges occurred with other kids present in the classroom," Wininger-Howard said. "The defendant is very bold, which makes him a serious safety risk."
Wininger-Howard also pointed to comments Nighswonger made after his initial arrest.
"When the defendant was interviewed, he made statements if he got out he might as well split to someplace like Mexico, where he can repress his memories and get on with life," she said.
One of Nighswonger's victims also called in to Monday's hearing, causing parents in the room to tear up as they listened.
"I have frequent nightmares of him being released from jail," she said. "I'm thousands of miles away from him and I still find this fear overwhelming. He robbed me of my childhood memories, my ability to trust and my right to feel safe in a school."
State prosecutors now say Nighswonger, who once taught at Iditarod Elementary School, had a total of eight victims. More have come forward since charges against him first emerged in September.
The added counts accuse Nighswonger of touching or attempting to touch four children’s genitals, one of them in 2002 and the others from 2014 through October 2018. He allegedly had oral sex with one of the later three victims.
Nighswonger's attorney, Phil Ainsworth, didn't try to fight the bail increase Monday.
"We have no objection because he has no desire to bond out," Ainsworth said.
Woodman set Nighswonger’s bail at $500,000 each cash performance and cash appearance.
Heather Hintze contributed information to this story.
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