A Turlock man has pled no contest to a variety of criminal charges stemming from unlawful sexual relationships he had with students while teaching in Los Banos.
Gary Bettencourt, 41, entered a no contest plea to 11 criminal charges on Aug. 19 in Merced County Superior Court. The charges against Bettencourt included two counts of lewd acts with a child, two counts of oral copulation with a minor, and five counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.
Bettencourt and his girlfriend, Devyn Egan, 22, also of Turlock, were both arrested in February after a five month investigation by the Los Banos Police Department. Bettencourt had been a teacher with the Los Banos Unified School District since 2002. He first taught at Los Banos High School and then moved to Pacheco High School in 2010, where he taught English and Drama. Egan was a substitute teacher for the Los Banos Unified School District.
According to the Merced County District Attorney’s Office, Bettencourt had sexual relations with a 15-year-old girl from 2003 to 2004; committed oral copulation with a minor in 2006; and engaged in repeated sexual acts with a 17-year-old girl in 2015.
Egan is accused of participating in the sexual relations with the 17-year-old girl and is facing charges of unlawful sex with a minor and oral copulation with a minor. She has pled not guilty to the charges and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Sept. 23.
The investigation into Bettencourt began in September 2015 when the police department learned of a possible inappropriate relationship between Bettencourt and a student.
At that time detectives interviewed an 18-year-old woman who stated she had an on-going sexual relationship with Bettencourt and Egan. The woman told detectives the relationship began in early 2015, when she was 17 years old and continued until June when she graduated from high school.
While investigating this case, detectives identified a second female victim, who reported being involved in an on-going sexual relationship with Bettencourt between the ages of 15 and 17 years old, while she was a student. The second victim is now 27 years old. A third victim was also identified as the investigation progressed.
As part of the investigation detectives served two search warrants in September 2015. One was for Bettencourt’s classroom and the other was for his and Egan’s residence in the 700 block of W. Minnesota Avenue in Turlock. Detectives seized several pieces of evidence during the two searches, including computers, other electronic devices, and DNA evidence.
The investigation into Bettencourt sparked another line of inquiry into a former teacher who was serving as a police officer in Los Banos. Dusty Norris, 37, was charged in May with multiple sex offenses, which are alleged to have occurred while he was working as a high school teacher for the Los Banos Unified School District, prior to becoming a police officer.
Norris worked as a High School ROP Construction Tech Instructor during the 2004 to 2007 school years. He began working for the Los Banos Police Department in 2007, becoming a full time sworn police officer in 2008. It is alleged that during his years as a high school instructor he had sexual contact with multiple high school aged girls who were students in his classes.
When the allegations first came to light, the Los Banos Police Department placed Norris on administrative leave and asked the Merced County District Attorney's Office to conduct the investigation.
The district attorney’s office said the cases are unrelated, but at least one victim is reportedly the same for the two cases. Both men are named in a lawsuit filed by the woman.
Bettencourt is facing nine years and four months when he returns for sentencing on Sept. 23. He has been fired by the school district.