A former elementary school teacher at a Defense Department school in Germany has been convicted in federal court of sexually abusing four former students there who were between the ages of 6 and 8 at the time, according to the Department of Justice and court records.

Stefan Zappey, 56, of Stuttgart, Germany, taught first through third grade at Alexander M. Patch Elementary on Patch Barracks in Stuttgart from 2001 to 2021 for the Department of Defense Education Activity.

The jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia convicted Zappey Jan. 18 of four counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and four counts of abusive sexual contact. He faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 30 years in prison and will be sentenced May 2.

According to the Justice Department, Army criminal investigators were notified in 2020 that one of Zappey’s former students reported that he touched her inappropriately under her clothing between 2009 and 2010. Other students and faculty members at Patch Elementary School also told investigators that Zappey had frequently hugged students, had them sit on his lap, and touched their backs and stomachs under their clothes, according to Justice officials.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Army Criminal Investigation Division Europe field office investigated the case.

Patch Elementary, which opened in 1979, provides instruction to about 550 students from kindergarten through grade five. At the beginning of the current school year, students began using a newly constructed facility, DoDEA-Europe’s fifteenth 21st Century School.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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