TAMPA - The middle school principal of Tampa Day School, James Jerome Larkin, was arrested Thursday, accused of molesting a 14-year-old student.
School officials say Larkin has been terminated
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesman Larry McKinnon said Larkin, 63, put his hands down the victim's pants and touched him inappropriately.
McKinnon said Larkin befriended the boy and his mother some time prior, after the victim's father passed away.
Over time, McKinnon said Larkin became a surrogate dad and routinely took the victim to "Dad Club" meetings and other recreational activities.
Larkin babysat the victim while his mother was out of town for the weekend of March 7.
Around 10:15 pm that evening, according to the news release, Larkin entered the victim's room and laid down beside him. The release says Larkin then put his hands down the front of the victim's pants and began inappropriately touching him. The victim complained and Larkin stopped and left the room.
During the investigation, a recorded call was made between Larkin and the victim. During that call, authorities said Larkin admitted to the allegations and that his actions were inappropriate.
Larkin was arrested at his home Thursday and booked into the Orient Road Jail.
Larkin's attorney, Eddie Suarez, told ABC Action News his client is innocent but would not address the recorded phone call because he has not heard the tape.
Officials said they have had full cooperation from the school's administration.
Lois Delaney, head of the school released the following statement:
"As a school community were are shocked and saddened by the news. When these allegations were first brought to my attention earlier this week, I contacted the appropriate authorities and placed Mr. Larkin on leave pending an investigation. The news of the arrest and other details around the allegations are highly upsetting to me an anyone associated with Mr. Larkin. Our concern at this time is to provide emotional support to our school community and provide a safe and nurturing learning environment for all students."
Larkin's neighbor of nearly two decades, Marilyn George, described Larkin as social and a family man. She said he is married and is often with his wife. According to George, Larkin is known for throwing parties at his home and entertains parents of students.
"I'm shocked, disgusted, shocked," said George.
No one answered the door at Larkin's home Friday afternoon.
Larkin worked for more than 30 years at St. John Greek Orthodox Day School. Administrators there addressed his arrest in a press release.
"Mr. Larkin's tenure was unmarked by any irregularities," wrote Catherine S. Mitseas.
She added their prayers go out to all those involved and said this situation has left them 'with the heaviest of hearts."