Food laced with marijuana was allegedly served by a California elementary school teacher at an after work potluck dinner, say police. 47-year-old Teresa Gilmete Badger, a teacher at Matthew Turner Elementary School in Benicia, California was arrested Friday afternoon on suspicion of poisoning, a felony, following a six week investigation into the matter. She is currently being held on $15,000 bond.
Police say the potluck dinner at which the marijuana-containing dish was served occurred in late November at a residence in the Northern California Bay Area town of Benicia. The dinner was reportedly attended by a number of school employees and officials, several of whom became ill after the meal.
One woman became ill later in the evening after the get together and was taken to an area hospital. Another followed the next day complaining of chest pains and feeling like she was “under the influence of something.”An unidentified 15-year-old-boy, reportedly the son of a teacher who attended the party, also became ill after consuming the food that his parent brought home from the party. Those complaining of symptoms also reported suffering hallucinations, shortness of breath and numbness in their lower extremities.
It was the second party attendee’s positive test for THC, the active chemical in marijuana, that got the investigation started. Police were reportedly provided a tip in early December by the Benicia Unified School District’s superintendent, Janice Adams, that a number of school employees had fallen ill after the Nov. 21 potluck.
Lt. Frank Hartig of the Benicia Police Department has been working on the case and said that the guests at the potluck dinner party “basically were getting high” and had no explanation as to why. He reported that Badger “intentionally placed weed into a food source” and served it to her co-workers attending the potluck. He added that adding the marijuana to the food may not have been malicious on the elementary school teacher’s part, but would not go so far as to describe the incident as merely a prank. Her actual motive for the alleged crime remains unknown.
During the police investigation, it was reportedly uncovered that Badger admitted to several co-workers attending the get-together that she had added marijuana to the food she provided at the potluck. Police say Badger refused to comment on the matter to the arresting officers on the case, and she has not issued any public statements.
Leslie Beatson, the principal of Matthew Turner Elementary School where Badger has been employed as a first-grade teacher, sent a letter out to parents of students at the school on Friday indicating that Badger would be taking a leave of absence for an unknown length of time.
One of Badger’s neighbors reported feeling shocked after learning of her arrest. He stated that it just doesn’t fit with the image he has of Badger and that he remains hopeful that “this is really just a bad mistake.”
The elementary school teacher is expected to appear in court this week to face the felony poisoning charges resulting from her alleged placement of marijuana into food served to her colleagues at a potluck dinner.
By Michele Wessel