A former Duval County teacher has been found guilty of seven counts of sexual battery against three young girls.
Two girls testified Wednesday that Michael Worrell, 64, sexually assaulted them. A third victim was not available to testify, and her father told the court she may have run away three weeks ago.
Worrell was arrested arrested in September 2012. He has been held without bond since his arrest.
After several hours of testimony — including the defendant's taking the stand to say he "could not" have sexually assaulted the girls because he's not that kind of person — the jury began deliberations.
Police said the three children, ages 9 to 13 years old, told investigators Worrell sexually assaulted them in various local hotels from 2006 to 2012.
Worrell was immediately removed from his position as a fourth-grade teacher at Greenfield Elementary School on the Southside and was later fired.
The public was excluded from the courtroom while the two younger girls testified. The oldest, now 17, was not present. Her father told the court he hasn't seen her for three weeks.
The father said Worrell taught his daughter for a time, and she considered Worrell her godfather. The girl briefly lived with Worrell because the family's home was in a drug-infested area and they considered Worrell's neighborhood safer.
Prosecutors said Worrell would take the girls to a hotel near Ramona Avenue. The hotel manager testified Worrell would stay at the hotel a few times a week and always requested a certain area of the hotel near the woods that was very quiet.
The state rested before lunch. The biggest part of the defense's case was Worrell's taking the stand, saying he did in fact stay at the hotel a lot because he was stressed out and wanted time alone. He testified he never took the girls with him. He also says he cared for the girls like they were his own children.
“These children were in need, and I reached out to them to help as much as I could," Warrell said. "I treated these children as if they were my own. I used to tell people they were mine. I tried to provide the best I could for them. That was my whole intention.”
In its closing argument, the defense pointed out the girls changed their stories between their statements to investigators and their testimony Wednesday.
Worrell retired after 30 years in the Navy, then spent nine years as a teacher. He was first hired in Duval County as a substitute teacher, but received a full-time position in 2006 as a fourth-grade teacher at S.P. Livingston Elementary School.
Worrell also taught at Paxon Middle School from 2009 to 2011 before his last stint at Greenfield.
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