Deputies investigated earlier allegations in Rio against bus driver charged in sexual assault case

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RIO (WKOW) — A school bus driver accused of sexually assaulting children in the Pardeeville school district was investigated by the Columbia County Sheriff’s office for allegations of similar behavior when the driver had a school bus route in the Rio school district.

Columbia County authorities say 74-year-old Gary Dean Edwards of Pardeeville sexually assaulted a child bus passenger in 2017, and sexually assaulted a separate child this year.  He’s free on a signature bond.

A recently-released, partially-redacted incident report reveals a tipster told a Columbia County deputy that Edwards had stopped driving for the Rio school district several years ago after receiving complaints similar to his current charges.

The tipster, according to the report, told the deputy the information was not first-hand, but felt it was worth passing to authorities for investigation.

The deputy spoke with Edwards’ previous employer, Smith Bus Service, which confirmed Edwards had driven a bus in the Rio School District until sometime in 2016.

Edwards drove a 4K bus and also served as an aid inside the school, according to the report.

One person interviewed at Smith Bus Service said Rio’s superintendent hugged students, but “did not like it when Gary would,” the report said. The person said the superintendent asked Edwards to push away the kids.

Rio’s police chief, Jeff Becker, told deputies he remembered Edwards driving a bus in the Rio school district “for quite a few years,” according to the report. However, the chief had no records of any complaints relating to Edwards being relayed to police.

Rio Community School District Superintendent Craig Vetter previously told 27 News Edwards drove children on school buses in his district until sometime in 2016. Vetter declined comment when asked why Edwards separated from the job of school bus driver.

JT Cestkowski

JT Cestkowski

Social Media Content Producer/Desk Editor

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