Northfield, News

One year later: Contracted janitor remains at large after allegedly recording in Sunset Ridge School bathroom

The man who allegedly placed a recording device in a staff bathroom at Sunset Ridge School last January is still on the lam and wanted on an arrest warrant, Northfield police confirmed.

David Garcia-Espinal, 40, of Highwood, was identified as the suspect after a district staff member discovered the cellphone taped inside a trash can and recording through a small hole on Jan. 14, 2020 at the Northfield school. 

David Garcia-Espinal, 40, of Highwood, is suspected to have set up a cellphone recording in a Northfield school bathroom.

Officers conducted a thorough search of all District 29 facilities and found nothing else of suspicious nature, according to the original police report obtained by The Record North Shore. 

A felony warrant was later issued for Garcia-Espinal’s arrest, according to the report.

“Because the incident remains under investigation, we have no further comment at this time,” Northfield Police Sgt. Michael Hutensky wrote in an email to The Record North Shore. 

“Mr. Garcia-Espinal has not been taken into custody at this time,” he added. 

D29 Superintendent Dr. Ed Stange told The Record that he has not received any update on the case from police. 

Last year, in the wake of the incident, the school district issued several letters to parents and the community, eventually revealing there was illicit footage of both staffers and students on Garcia-Espinal’s cellphone. 

On the date the phone was located, Garcia-Espinal had left school property before he was identified as a suspect, a letter said, and he has not been located by police since.

Garcia-Espinal was an employee of two separate private vendors that provide services for District 29. He was a cook through Organic Life from August 2015 and was also employed as a custodian through Smith Maintenance Company from July 2016.

He worked at Sunset Ridge School, but never at Middlefork School, the letters state. 

Per contracts with the district, Stange said in a letter, both vendors provided official copies of separate, independent criminal background checks of Garcia-Espinal before he was assigned to Sunset Ridge School, and neither showed evidence of any criminal convictions.

The school, however, did not perform any additional background review.

Searches of the Illinois Sex Offender and Violent Offender Against Youth databases also yielded no results, the letter also states; however, it was later discovered, in 2012, Garcia-Espinal received a felony charge for possessing two false social security numbers and a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge for masturbating in a public restroom.

megan bernard
Megan Bernard

Megan Bernard is a co-founder and the managing editor who directs day-to-day journalism of The Record. Megan enjoys writing about restaurants, entertainment and education and is an established human-interest reporter.

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