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Medford woman faces felony sex charges

Charges stem from alleged contact in 2017 when victim was a minor

A 60-year-old Taylor County woman is facing up to 35 years, three months in prison and up to $130,000 in fines if convicted of charges related to sexual contact with a then 17-year-old student who was enrolled in the Medford Area Public School District’s Alternative High School program.

The contact is alleged to have occurred in April and May 2017. At the time, the defendant, Pamela J. Schield of Medford, was coordinator of the Taylor County Literacy Council and had up until December 2016 been a substitute teacher with the Alternative High School program. The two programs utilize adjoining spaces in the Taylor County Education Center.

On May 1, district attorney Kristi Tlusty filed a criminal complaint charging Schield with the following counts: Exposing a child to harmful material -- a Class I felony carrying a penalty of up to three years, six months in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Child enticement — a Class D felony carrying a penalty of up to 25 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.

Sexual assault of a child by a person who works or volunteers with children — a Class H felony carrying a penalty of up to six years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Sexual intercourse with a child age 16 or older —a Class A misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to nine months in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.

Friday’s criminal complaint is a culmination of an investigation that began in February 2017 when deputy Nick Schuld was assigned to investigate a report of an inappropriate relationship between an adult woman and a male student.

The sheriff’s department got involved after a therapist at Mayo Clinic, contacted Taylor County Human Services stating that Schield admitted to having “inappropriate Snapchat communication” with a male at the alternative high school.

Under state law, therapists are mandatory reporters when it comes to sexual crimes involving minors.

According to the complaint, Schuld talked to Schield about the Snapchats and comments she made to her therapists. At the time, Schield stated she had made up the story. At the time, Schuld was unable to get the identity of the potential victim.

On November 19, 2019 deputy Chad Kowalczyk followed up with therapist to review the initial complaint. The therapist told the deputy that a few days after she saw Schield in January 2017, Schield called her and stated, “You ratted me out.”

The therapist told the deputy she tried to explain to Schield that she had a legal obligation to report the information that had been told to her.

Meanwhile, in June 2018, Officer Jason Lange began an investigation based on the girlfriend of the victim finding a nude picture of Schield on his cellphone after being alerted by the girlfriend’s mother.

The investigation was turned over to detective Harlan Schwartz who met with the victim’s girlfriend who said she identifi ed the person in the nude photo by comparing it to Schield’s Instagram account. The girlfriend said she asked the victim about the photo and was told by hm that he had received it “a week before his birthday when he was 17.” According to the criminal complaint, the girlfriend also related another sexual encounter that the victim told her occurred with the defendant.

The girlfriend also shared an August 30, 2018 text from Schield stating that the victim must have taken her phone while taking part in a GED prep exam and accessed her personal photos. The text stated she has retained attorney Shawn Paul and cautioned that if either the girlfriend or the victim’s mother contacted her again, she would be seeking a restraining order.

On November 19, 2018, Schwartz interviewed the victim’s mother who reported that her son told her he had sex with Schield and had received a bottle of cologne from her in December 2016.

On December 28, 2018, Schwartz interviewed both the victim and his mother. The victim said he had met Schield at the Alternative High School where she had been a substitute teacher. He stated they had begun communicating on Snapchat and that he had received six to 10 pictures, about half of them being nude pictures. He stated that when he finished school he began dating his girlfriend and that he went to work in Ohio just before he turned 18. He told the detective of an incident that occurred after he came home from Ohio and was drunk one night and contacted Schield and the two met and had sex in an airport hanger. The detective asked if there had been any sexual contact before the victim had turned 18. The victim stated that when he was 17 he had gone to her house where they had sexual contact. This was to have taken place on May 11, 2017, three days before his 18th birthday.

In February 2019, a search warrant was executed to seize electronic devices from the defendant and her husband. The devices were sent to the Wisconsin Department of Justice for analysis.

Schwartz also received search warrants for the Facebook and Snapchat accounts used by Schield. The messages date from April 4, 2017 to February 28, 2019. The criminal complaint included an exchange of messages of a sexual nature that occurred on April 4, 2017 and between April 22 and April 24, 2017 and on May 9.

In November 2019, detective Chad Kowalczyk took over the investigation and in February 2020 received a USB drive containing the forensic data extraction reports from the devices previously seized under search warrant by Schwartz. Digital forensics examiner Catherine Byars stated that it was clear that something had been done to both of the cellphones that had been turned over by Schield and that one of the phones “was clearly damaged consistent with someone attempting to pry the phone open and one of the phones had a badly damaged port”, she stated that was consistent with intentional damage. Further it is stated that while there was communication located on the phone, images were not able to be recovered.

On February 24, 2020, Kowalczyk met with Joesph Greget, president of the Taylor County Literacy Council. He stated that Schield began work as the coordinator of the Literacy Council in July 2016. In February 2017, the council received a letter from her informing them of a 12week medical leave. On March 14, 2019 the council received a letter from Schield announcing her resignation effective March 31, 2019.

Schield is being represented by attorney Wright Laufenberg of Merrill. An initial appearance for Schield is scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. on June 2 in the Taylor County Courthouse.