A Lowell man has been arrested on suspicion of raping a 5-year-old girl at R.E.Baker Elementary School in Bentonville, police said.
Ali Martin Matar, 21, was arrested on Wednesday (May 14) after an incident at his place of employment, the school district’s Adventure Club Program at the elementary school, police said.
Authorities confirmed that the child rape happened within the last 30 days from Saturday (May 10), when it was reported.
(Click here to read the suspect’s probable cause affidavit)
Court documents state that Matar tickled the girl inappropriately while they were alone in the library.
A check of Matar’s criminal record showed no arrests or convictions in the past, according to court documents.
The suspect, Matar, worked at three other schools in the Bentonville School District, according to the school’s superintendent, Michael Poore. The superintendent also confirmed that employees at the after-school program are supposed to work in pairs, but that didn’t happen with this child-rape case.
The three schools Matar worked at in the past were Elm Tree Elementary School, Apple Glen Elementary School and Willowbrook Elementary School, according to the superintendent.
Adventure Club is a childcare program within the Bentonville School District offered by Childcare Enrichment Services for school-age children from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., according to the Bentonville Public School District’s website.
Bentonville Public Schools Childcare Enrichment Services is a non-profit organization that includes programs like Adventure Club, Building Bridges and Parents As Teachers.
Childcare Enrichment Services is a nonprofit program that was started by Bentonville Public Schools. They have a total of 59 employees, 886 children and their budget for 2014 is $1,951,488, according to the program’s director.
The service is available for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Martin was arrested after an investigation that started with a tip received via a child abuse hotline, police said.
He is being held in the Benton County Jail without bond and has a hearing in Benton County Circuit Court on June 23, according to the Sheriff’s Office website.
The investigation did not reveal any evidence of other victims, police said.
A letter was sent home to parents about the results of the investigation. To read that letter, click here.
The suspect faces class y felony and 25-40 years in prison, according to authorities.
The school superintendent said the Adventure Club program will continue today and in the future. The superintendent also said the school district will seek the termination of the child rape suspect at the May school board meeting. He said Matar is suspended with pay.
Parents in the area said they were shocked to hear the news.
“It’s scary that it’s always the people you expect the least,” Ashley Bell said, “Because I know some people that also know the kid, and they said they never would have expected this from him.”
Gina Roughton has two daughters in Bentonville School District and said her heart goes out to the family, and that this incident may be a lesson on who to trust.
“Children just need to know that no matter who is around them, they need to be alert of odd situations, and be alert that even the best of a person can be their enemy,” Roughton said.
Anyone with additional information is encouraged to call the Bentonville Police Department at 479-271-3170.