Arrest of Mercer County teacher causes anger, shock and sadness in small town

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Aledo community reacts to a teacher's arrest

Everyone is affected.

That’s how the community members in Aledo describe the impact after learning a long time teacher was arrested for predatory behavior.

It’s as anger, shock and sadness are common reactions to the case.

As Local 4  News reported last night, 60-year-old Mark Artcher was arrested on two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child Thursday afternoon.

It’s after an investigation led by Illinois State Police and local Law Enforcement.

Friday we’re learning more as formal charges are filed in Mercer County including it involved two kids under the age of 18.

A sad for everyone in Aledo, that’s how one woman described learning about the arrest and charges Mark Artcher faces.

Many of the people Local 4 News spoke with Friday said they don’t want to talk on camera because in this small town everyone knows nearly everybody and that’s why this case is impacting the whole village.

But one man who sat down with Local 4 said it’s hard to imagine this happening in Aledo.

Ed Hayes said, “That’s not forgivable to me. If he’s guilty, there’s no forgiving.”

Ed Hayes and his wife moved to Aledo a few months ago looking for a quiet, small place to retire.
Hayes said, “Small farming community town. The people were excellent; I mean you couldn’t ask for better neighbors.”

Hayes said he doesn’t know the Mercer County High School Social Science teacher.

Hayes “Teachers are supposed to be out there to take care of our kids. To teach, to make them learn and then you hear this, and the guy may be innocent. I don’t know. I don’t know him, but if he’s not innocent, shame on him.”

 But in this tight-knit town, as word spread about Artcher’s arrest, that’s why the shock is so profound.

Hayes said, “If it had been my daughter or my granddaughter, or a good friend I’d be livid.”

In the complaint, police said Artcher had sexual acts with two children under the age of 13 in March and early April. In one case officials said Artcher grabbed the butt of a child and in the other put his hand on the vagina of a girl.

Hayes said, “You just don’t do that to little girls. You just don’t.”

Providing a voice and support to children affected by abuse is the work of the Mercer County Family Crisis Center Children’s Advocacy Center.

Executive Director Marla Reynolds said, “Child Advocacy Center is a safe place for children to come and to tell their story.”

The Center provides a place for the forensic interview and services to help heal.

Reynolds said, “To be healthy and good and good citizens and that’s only done by evaluating the trauma they’ve experienced.”

The executive director also said it’s important for kids to have a trusted person to reach out to for help.

Reynolds said, “Call us or call your teacher, talk to your parents. That’s got to be the most important thing. Parents need to know what’s going on in our kids’ lives.”

For Hayes, he said it’s the wish of everyone for no child to ever face that trauma.

Hayes said, “I’m upset because it happened in this town and it shouldn’t have.”

Local 4 News also reached out to the school district, and in a statement, the superintendent said Artcher was placed on leave Wednesday after police told them about the investigation.

On April 24, 2019, the District placed Mr. Artcher on leave after it was made aware by local law enforcement of a situation involving allegations of child abuse. An investigation by DCFS, multiple law enforcement agencies, and the Mercer County State’s Attorney is ongoing. The District is cooperating fully in this matter. Given the active status of the investigation, the District cannot comment any further on this personnel issue.

No court date has been set for Artcher. 

The Mercer County Family Crisis Center can be reached at 309-582-7233.

MCFCC is also taking part in Child Abuse Prevention Month, with the blue cutouts of a boy and girl on display around Aledo and throughout the county.

It’s ahead of their Champions4Children Walk May 4. 

This provides funding to provide counseling services free of charge. 

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