Weekend wrap-up: Here are the biggest Arizona stories from Aug. 6-8

Aug 8, 2021, 6:00 PM
FILE - In this Wednesday, May 10, 2017 file photo, then-Arizona state Rep. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoeni...

FILE - In this Wednesday, May 10, 2017 file photo, then-Arizona state Rep. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoenix, listens to a colleague on the floor of the at the Arizona Capitol Wednesday, May 10, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX — An Arizona lawmaker was released on bond after being arrested on suspicion of sexual conduct with a minor, some students at an East Valley elementary school will temporarily move to remote learning after a significant increase in active COVID-19 cases on campus, and authorities are seeking help to identify potential victims of a former Mesa school teacher that was arrested child exploitation.

Here are some of the biggest stories that headlined the Arizona news cycle over the weekend.

Lawmaker Tony Navarrete accused of child sex crimes released on bond

Arizona state Sen. Tony Navarrete was released on bond Saturday after being arrested Thursday on suspicion of sexual conduct with a minor.

Bond was set for the Arizona lawmaker at $50,000 and posted on Saturday morning.

The Phoenix Police Department said in a press release Friday it had probable cause to take Navarrete, 35, into custody after interviewing the juvenile victim and witnesses. The alleged crimes occurred in 2019 with a child who said he was 12 or 13 at the time, according to a probable cause statement.

Navarrete was charged with three counts of sexual conduct with a minor (class 2 felony), two counts of sexual conduct with a minor (class 6 felony), one count of attempted sexual conduct with a minor and one count of molestation of a child.

East Valley students sent home after increase in active COVID-19 cases

All fifth and sixth graders at an East Valley elementary school will temporarily move to remote learning after a significant increase in active COVID-19 cases were detected on the campus.

Ellsworth Elementary in SanTan Valley, which started classes July 26, sent a letter Friday to parents saying the students will be allowed back in the classroom on Aug. 16 following a reported 53 active cases at the school.

The students will all learn from home through Google Classroom during their quarantine.

Students and staff who test positive will be excluded from participation in any in-person or on-campus activity until they meet return criteria set by state and local health authorities, the J.O. Combs Unified School District said.

Ellsworth said the school remains open for in-person learning for students in preschool through fourth grade.

HSI arrests Mesa teacher for alleged child exploitation, seeks more victims

Homeland Security Investigations in Phoenix is seeking help from the public to identify potential victims of a former Mesa school teacher arrested Thursday morning for child exploitation.

Authorities said Cheng-Hsuan “Eric” Tsai, 29, faces 20 counts of distribution and possession of pictures of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

When Tsai was arrested, he was a teacher at the Tempe Montessori School in Mesa. His bond has been set to $1 million.

The investigation into the teacher began in February when HSI special agents discovered someone who was accessing, downloading and disseminating child sexual exploitation material electronically, authorities said in a press release.

MCSO arrests 44-year-old man accused of sexually abusing teen girl

A 44-year-old man was arrested last week after allegedly sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl, authorities said.

Detectives responded to a report of a possible sex crime on July 28 involving Gregory Guthrie and the minor, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.

Detectives were told the incident took place inside of Guthrie’s car outside of the girl’s home. Her 8-year-old sister witnessed and reported the abuse, authorities said.

During the investigation, detectives conducted a forensic interview with the teen, who confirmed the abuse, and gathered additional evidence that supported the reported sexual assault.

When Guthrie was arrested on July 29, he admitted to abusing the girl and knowing she was 14 years old, MCSO said.

Tempe wastewater data program expanding due to $1M partnership

The city of Tempe is expanding its wastewater data program following a $1 million partnership with the state.

The program will grow due to Arizona’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Cooperative Agreement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is the source of the funding.

Tempe’s program has been in place since 2018.

“Tempe is a forward-thinking, innovative community. Our use of wastewater science shows that we are taking full advantage of all the tools available to fight COVID-19,” Tempe Mayor Corey Woods said in a press release.

Tempe began by measuring the presence of opioid concentrations in wastewater before adding COVID-19 signals in March 2020.

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Weekend wrap-up: Here are the biggest Arizona stories from Aug. 6-8