Former nanny, school volunteer faces child molestation charges | News | Palo Alto Online |


Former nanny, school volunteer faces child molestation charges

David Shwenke Tupou was first accused in 1994, but his three victims have come forward now

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A former Palo Alto elementary school volunteer and nanny who was initially accused of child molestation 23 years ago has now been charged with two counts of felony lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 in that case, a Santa Clara County prosecutor said.

The 1994 case against David Shwenke Tupou (aka David Tupou Schwenke), 49, who was then 36 years old, divided the Palo Alto school community: some people wanted him prosecuted and others demanded the charges be dropped against the charismatic school volunteer.

But three alleged victims from that case -- sisters in whose home Tupou lived as a nanny -- came forward again last November to press charges. After investigations by Palo Alto police and the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, prosecutors filed charges against Tupou in February for acts against one of the sisters.

Tupou (pronounced Too-BOH) is already serving a 67-year prison sentence for sexual-assault convictions in a 1998-1999 case involving a San Jose girl. He has been imprisoned since 2001 at the California Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, according to online prison records.

The three sisters in the Palo Alto case, now adults in their late 20s and 30s, told police they came forward again because they are concerned that since Proposition 57 passed in California, Tupou might be released from prison early and they don't want him to harm on anyone else. In addition, one of the sisters, designated as Victim 1 in the November police report, said she is now a parent and wanted to make sure she did the right thing.

Last fall, the San Jose sex-abuse survivor contacted one of the sisters through Facebook and reportedly told her Tupou referred to the three Palo Alto victims by their names while she was being abused.

The alleged abuse in Palo Alto took place from 1991 to 1995 when the girls were between the ages of 4 and 12 years old. Victim 1 was allegedly abused between ages 4 and 8; Victim 2 was 6 to 10 years old and Victim 3 was 8 to 12 years old, according to the police report.

Tupou allegedly used "force or fear," coercion and threats to get the girls to cooperate, including hanging their baby brother out of a window and threatening to drop him if they did not cooperate. The girls thought it was "a small price to pay" to keep their brother from being dropped off the balcony, they told police.

The alleged abuse included kissing, photographing them naked, having them watch provocative videos, playing "strip poker"-type games and touching their bodies or having them touch his, according to the police report. A witness who was friends with Victim 1 has also corroborated parts of what the sisters described, according to the police report.

Tupou had a considerable history in Palo Alto schools. He worked for the Palo Alto Unified School District in 1991-1992 as a language tutor, according to previous Weekly news reports. He volunteered in at least five Palo Alto schools in 1993-1994 including Hoover, Juana Briones, El Carmelo, Addison and Walter Hays elementary schools, mostly in kindergarten classes. He also volunteered at the Palo Alto Children's Theatre.

Principals at Hoover and El Carmelo asked Tupou to discontinue volunteering after multiple parents expressed concern over his too-intimate behavior with their children, which included excessive tickling, according to Weekly news reports at the time.

In fall 1994 a parent reported to police that Victim 1 told her daughter how she had been sexually abused by Tupou. He was then arrested and charged on Oct. 19, 1994, with two counts of child molestation. The charges were reduced to annoying a child after the three sisters would not testify against him. Tupou was required to take sensitivity training and the charges were dropped, according to court documents and news reports.

One of the sisters did give police a detailed account of Tupou's alleged sexual touching, according to the 1994 police report. But the children were allegedly instructed by their mother to later lie so there would not be any consequence to Tupou because he was "family," they told police in November.

The reasons why their mother allegedly protected Tupou are not discussed in the police narrative. But Victims 1 and 3 said their mother made it clear -- at one point during a kitchen-table meeting with Tupou present -- that it was not something they should talk about, according to the police report. The mother allegedly told the children that the account Victim 1 had given to police was "mistaken."

The sisters now say they were not given a fair chance in the 1990s to prosecute Tupou because they were minors who were instructed by a parent to lie to police, they said in the 2016 police report.

They could still get their day in court. California does have statutes of limitation on sexual-abuse cases, but there are exceptions that can extend the statute by a year from the time the victim reports the crime, Deputy District Attorney Pinaki Chakravorty said. Adults who report a substantial sexual assault that occurred when they were children can still see charges filed against their alleged abusers many years later.

In the Tupou case, California Penal Code section 803 (f) applies if there was "substantial sexual conduct." Oral copulation, penetration of a victim or the offender or masturbation of either the victim or offender are examples of such conduct. Corroborating evidence of the victim's allegations is also required for a statute of limitations extension to apply, Chakravorty said.

Tupou was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail on April 4 where he will remain while his case proceeds. He is being held without bail. He has pleaded not guilty, Chakravorty said. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on the charges on Sept. 25 in Santa Clara County Superior Court in Palo Alto. He is currently considering hiring a private attorney, according to court documents.

Upon resolution of his case, whether he is convicted or not, he will be returned to state prison to continue serving his sentence for the conviction in the San Jose case, according to court documents.


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16 people like this
Posted by R. Winslow
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 6, 2017 at 10:12 am

It is oftentimes difficult to 'rehab' a sex-offender as the aberrational predispositions and tendencies run deep. A far more comprehensive vetting process on the part of the school district is paramount as a similar incident involving another 'elementary school tutor' occurred years earlier in PA.

As for Mr. Topou, he probably should remain incarcerated despite his charming personality and 'charisma'.

8 people like this
Posted by Murry
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2017 at 1:51 pm

I have no opinion one way or the other about this man's guilt, but how can ANYONE defend themselves against something that happened *23* years ago?! Where were YOU on the afternoon of May 17, 1993? Can anyone verify that?

13 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2017 at 2:00 pm

@Murry - this is not one incident that happened on one specific day. The article says there were repeated sexual assaults with multiple victims over a 4 year period.

9 people like this
Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 6, 2017 at 3:13 pm

The accused may not remember where they were on the afternoon of May 17, 1993. But sharpened by trauma, the victim's recollection of what occurred is often burned deeply into their psyche in the most painful, specific way imaginable.

That's what the accused has to defend him or her self against.

10 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 6, 2017 at 10:36 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

If you want to understand the roots of rape culture and victim blaming in Palo Alto, just look at this case.

Parents ask DA to drop charges
Web Link
"His life is in limbo based on one person's accusations. There are no victims in this case," said Marlene Saloner.

Child molest case raises fears
Web Link
"Some parents say they are frustrated because neither the police nor the the Palo Alto Unified School District has done enough to get the word out about the arrest. " Sound familiar???

Letters to the Editor
Web Link

Overcoming abuse
Web Link
Tanaka said she felt the backlash of speaking out: "For the rest of that kindergarten year I was constantly accosted by parents who thought he was wonderful, saying things to me at soccer games, such as, 'I don't know what your problem is with Tupou. He's so wonderful.'"
"Tupou's arrest was not announced by either the school district or the police department. Police Capt. Tom Merson told the Weekly at the time that no announcement was made because the investigating officers didn't think it would lead to identifying additional victims."

16 people like this
Posted by Sarah
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2017 at 11:09 pm

Bravo, sisters! Courage!

3 people like this
Posted by Pete Cockerell
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 6, 2017 at 11:40 pm

@john_alderman Wait, there's a rape culture in Palo Alto? Could you define that term please?

2 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 7, 2017 at 1:13 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Pete - Web Link

12 people like this
Posted by Keep Kids Safe
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2017 at 11:57 am

Please understand that when it comes to childhood sexual abuse, the pedophile is usually the most charismatic and most popular individual. No child wants to gravitate towards a jerk. That's why it easy for a community to rally around the pedophile and refuse to accept the fact that the victim is right. Keep Kids Safe supports the victims.

2 people like this
Posted by R. Winslow
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 7, 2017 at 12:35 pm

>Please understand that when it comes to childhood sexual abuse, the pedophile is usually the most charismatic and most popular individual.

Probably explains why so many HS/college coaches get busted for these kinds of indiscretions.

3 people like this
Posted by Pete Cockerell
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2017 at 7:48 pm

@john_alderman So first you're conflating Palo Alto and Paly, and then you're using one of the most controversial and divisive stories ever published in Verde to bolster your "case". Better, I think, to make progress by educating boys (and girls, and adults) about what is and isn't acceptable behavior, and steer clear of emotive and alienating terms like "rape culture".

6 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 7, 2017 at 8:10 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Pete Cockerell - What kind of rape curriculum do you suggest for Kindergarten?

Like this comment
Posted by @PAFreePress
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2017 at 6:36 pm

"according to the police report." These reports are exempt. Not sure why the Palo Alto Police Department would be at liberty to release such reports . Cal gov code 6254(f) 6254(k) Cal. Penal a code 13300

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