After her parents found an entry in their 15-year-old daughter’s journal describing sex with a teacher, they called the Millard Public Schools hotline.
The report went to the head administrator of Millard South High School’s sophomore class. Unbeknownst to the parents, that was the same man who was abusing their 10th-grade daughter.
Matthew Fedde immediately called the girl and told her to delete all the texts the two had exchanged.
Surveillance video at Millard South later captured him opening the girl’s locker and placing “Lolita” — a novel about a man’s sexual relationship with a 12-year-old girl — inside. The girl told authorities that she had given the book to Fedde as a gift.
“He made certain that he wasn’t caught with anything that was connected to her,” prosecutor Beth Beninato said.
“He was very well aware that this was going to unravel,” Beninato said. “That level of manipulation is unfathomable.”
Thursday, Douglas County District Judge Marlon Polk sentenced Fedde to 18 to 24 years on each of two amended counts of attempted first-degree sexual assault of a child. He ordered that the sentences be served at the same time.
Under the state’s sentencing law, that means Fedde, 46, could be released on parole after nine years and will automatically be released after 12 years.
Beninato had asked for a sentence of 30 to 40 years on each count, citing recent previous cases involving educators: an Omaha Public Schools middle school teacher who sexually assaulted a 13-year-old got 40 years in prison and a softball coach who enticed a teenage girl received 25 to 30 years.
Fedde’s behavior was most troubling, Beninato said, because his position as an assistant principal meant he had control over the teen’s classes. And as a teacher with a master’s degree, she said, he’s expected to know that what he did was wrong.
Beninato said Fedde also had groomed a 15-year-old girl when he worked in Kansas and eventually had sex with her. Fedde’s attorney, Steve Lefler, said the judge shouldn’t consider that allegation.
Fedde and the Millard South student met in 2017 at the school. Fedde created an account on Snapchat, an app that deletes messages after the receiver views them. The account was the girl’s name spelled backwards, Beninato said.
Fedde initiated messages one Saturday in November. The two exchanged naked photos of each other. Ultimately, Beninato said, their encounters led to digital and penile penetration — two of the incidents occurred at school and one occurred in Fedde’s car.
Authorities found a pigeon necklace in Fedde’s office, wrapped and ready to give as a gift — not to his wife, but to the girl, who had told him that it was her favorite bird.
“This child loved this man. She believed that he was in love with her,” Beninato said. “She will have to try to figure out what healthy love actually is. Because there’s a distrust there, and there should be, because of what he has done.”
The teenager on Thursday read a four-page letter to the court in which she attempted to explain her confused emotions of love and anger. At one point, she forgave Fedde, but then said she may not feel the same way tomorrow. She remembered that he had cinnamon gum and nail clippers in his desk, but then said she wanted to forget those memories.
“I lost my friends, I lost my school and my favorite teachers,” the girl said.
The girl’s mother told the court that the revelations and the court process created dysfunction within the family. Bullying on social media and in person, she said, has been relentless — just before the family went on vacation, the family home was vandalized with graffiti. The girl and her parents attend therapy.
“This is our life,” the woman said. “There’s just no shutting it off. It has left us all broken.”
Judge Polk said he admired the girl for speaking up.
“I will say to you ... that you are a very brave person,” he said. “Educators have to know that if they are in relationships with young children that prison is where they will end up.”
Fedde did not speak during the hearing or after he was sentenced. Lefler, Fedde’s attorney, said Fedde wrote a letter to the judge apologizing to the girl’s family but most of all to his own family and three teenage children.
Before sentencing, Lefler said the girl was not so innocent, noting that in her journal, she described her perfect man as someone in his 30s or 40s. He said she had written about sex fantasies with her boyfriend’s dad.
Beninato pushed back on Lefler’s notion that the girl shared responsibility, pointing out that the girl is a child.
“She simply cannot be blamed because she found herself in this situation,” Beninato said. “There’s one person who is responsible, and it’s Matt Fedde.”
Polk decided the sentence after the initial judge on the case, Douglas County District Judge Duane Dougherty, recused himself before sentencing, citing a prior attorney/client relationship with Lefler.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said he couldn’t speculate on whether Dougherty’s sentence would have been different, but said Polk’s sentence wasn’t excessively lenient and therefore does not meet grounds for appeal.
“The whole scenario is so unimaginable,” Kleine said of the Fedde case. “You wouldn’t think somebody would do this to someone else, particularly someone who has gone to school, who is supposed to be dedicated to serving the community as a teacher. To use that position to do something like this is just beyond belief.”
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