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Phillips Exeter Academy student charged with sexual assault; school minister had him bake bread for victim

Union Leader Correspondent

July 13. 2016 12:25PM
Chukwudi Ikpeazu (Exeter Police Department)

EXETER – A student at Phillips Exeter Academy is due in court next month to face a sexual assault charge alleging he fondled a female student in the latest case of sexual misconduct that reportedly was brought to the attention of police only recently.

Chukwudi Ikpeazu, 18, of Parkland, Fla., is charged with misdemeanor sexual assault and is free on $5,000 personal recognizance bail following his arrest in early June.

The student track athlete is accused of fondling a then-17-year-old student’s breasts against her will in the basement of the prep school’s church known as Phillips Church on Front Street.

A complaint filed at the Brentwood Circuit Court states that the alleged victim told Ikpeazu “no” and “We are not hooking up.”

According to the complaint, the incident occurred on Oct. 7, 2015.

The charge comes amid an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct involving faculty and students and criticisms of the school’s handling of incidents, some of which occurred decades ago.

The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that the alleged victim initially didn’t report the incident to police and instead agreed to a proposal by the school’s minister, the Rev. Robert Thompson, to meet with Ikpeazu at the church to resolve the allegation.

According to a story published in Wednesday’s Globe, the minister urged Ikpeazu to agree to an “act of penance” that involved baking bread for the teen for the remainder of the school year.

However, according to the newspaper, the continuous bread deliveries created stress for the alleged victim as she continued to face Ikpeazu on a regular basis.

The teen eventually reported the incident to Exeter police and the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office.

Neither Exeter Police Chief William Shupe nor a spokeswoman from the academy were immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Ikpeazu, who is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 16, has been ordered to stay away from the alleged victim.

Meanwhile, former PEA faculty member Arthur Peekel recently pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting a prospective student in 1973.

Peekel, 75, of Illinois, turned himself in to Exeter police in May after an investigation into sexual assault claims brought by Lawrence Jenkens, a 1977 PEA graduate who first publicized allegations in March through a post on Facebook.

Jenkens, now 56, later told the New Hampshire Union Leader that he was 14 years old when he was allegedly molested by Peekel while visiting the academy when he was considering boarding schools.

Jenkens made his allegations public for the first time after learning that former academy history teacher Rick Schubart was forced to resign in 2011 and had admitted to sexual misconduct with two female students in the 1970s and 1980s.

More allegations surfaced that resulted in the firing of PEA photography teacher Steven Lewis in April for sexual encounters with a student more than 30 years ago.

Police couldn’t consider charges in the Lewis and Schubart cases because the statute of limitations had expired. However, charges were brought against Peekel because he moved out of state after he resigned in 1974, and under state law, the statute of limitations is suspended if a person moves out of state, meaning charges could still be filed decades after the alleged assault.

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