Accused teacher on suicide watch

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A Henrico teacher accused of sex crimes with children is on suicide watch.

43-year-old Neil French Jr. is facing charges of indecent liberties with a minor and aggravated sexual battery with a child under the age of thirteen. Monday is the second time French has been unable to show up for his arraignment because he's on suicide watch.

Henrico Police say two children were victimized and now they're looking for more potential victims. French's neighbors say they never saw this coming.

Nikki Robbins was French's student many years ago. Now she's his neighbor. She says her whole neighborhood was stunned to hear their neighbor was arrested for sex crimes involving two children.

"Total shock, disbelief," Robbins said. "I couldn't believe it. He's always been a nice guy, kind of kept to himself."

French's family had no comment today as they left the courtroom.

French has spent the last seven years as a special education teacher at Fairfield Middle School. He's now suspended without pay, pending the outcome of his case.

French is now prohibited to have any contact with any students.

Joanne Wells went to Fairfield Middle School decades ago and now lives just a few houses down from French. She says it's bad enough to commit a crime against a child, but it's even worse when a teacher is the one accused.

"Hearing he's a teacher makes it even more disheartening," Wells said. "You send your kids to school thinking they're going to be taken care of and protected. When something like this happens, it's very disappointing."

She says hearing one of her neighbors is accused of sex crimes with children makes her worry about her grandchildren and other kids in her neighborhood.

"Hopefully the other neighbors are aware of it," she said.  "This is out there. I know they're innocent until proven guilty, but you still have to be protective of your kids."

French is expected to be back in court Tuesday morning. A judge may order mental evaluations to see if he's fit for future court proceedings.

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