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Megan Bernard, Assistant Managing Editor
10:36 am CST January 20, 2020

After a cellphone was found recording on Jan. 14 in a staff-designated bathroom at Sunset Ridge School in Northfield, students and their parents informed district officials they had also used the bathroom in question.

Northfield police, who reviewed images from the device, would not confirm if any students were featured in the recordings; however, the department issued a felony arrest warrant for a Highwood man who frequently worked within the school and banned him from District 29 property.

Police are searching for David Garcia-Espinal, 40, who worked with companies contracted by the district and who was previously charged in 2012 with fondling himself in a female bathroom at a Glenview movie theater, according to official documents.

As of press time, Garcia-Espinal had not been taken into custody.

“We’re actively attempting to locate him,” Northfield Police Sergeant Michael Hutensky told The Landmark. 

According to D29 Superintendent Ed Stange, Garcia-Espinal was an employee of two separate private vendors that provide services for the school district. 

“He was a cook in the Sunset Ridge School cafeteria through Organic Life, and was also employed as a custodian for Sunset Ridge School through Smith Maintenance Company,” Stange said. 

Around 4 p.m. Jan. 14, a district staff member discovered the video-recording cellphone, which Garcia-Espinal allegedly set up behind a small hole in the bathroom’s trash can. Police responded to conduct a search of all D29 facilities, a press release from the Northfield Police Department said.  

During the search, “nothing else of a suspicious nature” was found, according to the release.

“The police have identified a potential suspect, who has been banned from District 29 property pending the outcome of the police investigation,” Stange said in a letter addressed to parents, guardians and staff.

Garcia-Espinal worked at Sunset Ridge School, Stange said, but never worked at Middlefork School. Per agreements with the school venders, Stange said, his background was checked before employment, and searches of the Illinois Sex Offender and Violent Offender Against Youth databases yielded no results.

After learning more about Garcia-Espinal, Stange reported finding several disturbing details about his past that were not reported in pre-employment, including a felony arrest for public masturbation, about which Stange alerted the community in a letter.

According to Village of Glenview documents, in August 2012, Garcia-Espinal, identified then as David Garcia, was arrested for disorderly conduct (public indecency) and felony possession of fraudulent identification after he was discovered fondling himself in a female bathroom in June at Regal Cinemas (now ArcLight) in Glenview. 

He reportedly told police he performed a similar illicit act in Northbrook and also purchased fake social security cards, resident alien cards and permanent resident cards, according to the police documents obtained by The Winnetka Current. 

In a Questions and Answers document provided from D29 to the community, Stange says the district does not have information about the content of the videotaping at Sunset Ridge, and the Northfield Police have not since disclosed the names of any individuals who were recorded.

“After the discovery of the recording device was announced, students directly, and sometimes through their parents, began to inform district officials that they had used the staff-designated restroom in question,” Stange says in the document. “Parents of any student who disclosed this information were contacted by the district. We directed anyone with information relative to the investigation to contact the Northfield Police Department.”

In response to this incident, counselors have been available to students, staff and parents. Police have declined further comment as of press time since the incident remains under investigation.