A 37-year-old Wilton middle school teacher and Sacred Heart University professor is accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy with whom he was found in a movie theater parking lot Tuesday.
Police arrested Dr. Timothy Leonard, of Southbury, after an officer noticed a black Jeep Cherokee parked in a secluded area of the lot on Quarry Road around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Leonard identified himself as a teacher at Sacred Heart University and a seventh grade teacher in Wilton when the officer approached, according to police. He and the teen boy sitting next to him appeared nervous.
The passenger initially told police he was 18, although he appeared younger. Later, authorities learned the boy was actually 14-year-old Trumbull resident, according to police.
Investigators determined Leonard and the teen had engaged in "intimate contact" in the parked car.
Leonard went on to tell police he likes college-aged boys, saying “it’s my thing,” and indicated he’d met the teen through an online dating app, police said. Police identified the app as Grindr.
"The youth apparently represented himself as being 18 years old on that app, but to the officer, he thought it was obvious he wasn't 18 years old," said Trumbull police spokesman Lt. Leonard Scinto.
According to police, Leonard said he thought the victim was older and wouldn't have gotten involved with him had he known the boy's true age.
Wilton Supt. Kevin Smith addressed the arrested in a letter to parents, guardians and caregivers Wednesday.
"Dr. Leonard has worked in Wilton for many years and had developed a very positive reputation as a teacher. If the allegations are true, Dr. Leonard violated the trust of all in the Wilton Public Schools," Smith wrote.
Smith called the arrest "an incredible shock," and parents echoed his words.
"He is respected amongst his peers, adored and idolized by the children," said Diane McDermott, whose sons were in Leonard's class. "It's actually shocking, and there has to be... this 14-year-old... it can't be true."
Leonard, a teacher at the Middlebrook School, has been suspended with pay pending an investigation. School officials said he has been a member of the Wilton school system for more than 12 years and his wife also works at the school.
"Everyone's mad, hurt, sad," said McDermott. "You have some boys calling home to their moms, crying, running into the bathroom, crying because they're in total disbelief."
Faculty planned to meet Wednesday afternoon and support services will be offered for students, faculty and staff members.
Leonard was charged with risk of injury to a minor and fourth-degree sexual assault.
He posted $10,000 bond and police continue to investigate the case.
Sacred Heart University did not return a request for comment. Calls to a phone number associated with Leonard's home address were not returned.