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Flutes decorated by Santa Clarita Valley students who participated in the “Flutes Across the World” program with a music teacher who is being investigated for placing bodily fluids on the handmade flutes. Photo from Facebook.

 

A music teacher who taught in schools throughout Southern California, including Santa Clarita, pleaded guilty to one federal count of producing child pornography and six state counts of lewd acts with a child under the age of 14.

John Edward Zeretzke, 61, of Ventura, is the founder of Flutes Across the World, a contracting company that taught music to children throughout the country, Southern California and Santa Clarita.

In a Feb. 5 agreement, Zeretzke pleaded guilty to engaging in explicit conduct via video chat with a 16-year-old living in the Philippines. The state of California also alleged the music teacher filmed himself in 2017 ejaculating into five flutes that he eventually distributed to five girls under the age of 14.

Despite the plea, Zeretzke’s federal and state cases remain pending, and the former music teacher could face upward of three decades in federal prison, according to Ciaran McEvoy, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“There is an Oct. 8 change of plea hearing in federal court for Mr. Zeretzke,” said McEvoy via email on Thursday. “In our case, he has agreed to plead guilty to one count of production of child pornography. This offense carries a 30-year statutory maximum prison sentence and a 15-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.”

Following Zeretzke’s arrest and during the preliminary stages of the investigation, both the Saugus Union School District and Castaic Union School District wrote to parents about the investigation into the music teacher both districts had used.

“The performer distributes a flute-like musical instrument made of PVC pipe or bamboo to students during a music lesson, and the allegation is that he contaminated some of these instruments with semen,” SUSD Superintendent Joan Lucid said in an email to parents. “These allegations are deeply concerning, and I realize they raise many questions.”

music teacher

Flutes Across America and/or Zeretzke visited seven Saugus District schools — Bridgeport, James Foster, Mountainview, North Park, Rosedell, Tesoro del Valle and West Creek — and three Castaic Union School District schools: Castaic Elementary, Live Oak Elementary and Northlake Hills Elementary.

Both districts at the time confirmed that students were never left alone with the individual being investigated and students were never without teacher supervision.

“In an abundance of caution, we are asking families who may have had children in the district in this type of program, in which the students decorated PVC flutes or participated in other similar programs within the community, to remove those flutes from your child’s possession and place them in a sealed paper bag,” CUSD Superintendent Steve Doyle said in an email to parents at the time of investigation.

State officials were not immediately available to comment on the case and how many years Zeretzke could face for the six counts brought by the state.

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