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Teen who quit school to move in with her former teacher says relationship over in wake of his arrest


This news story was published on April 8, 2012.
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By Nan Austin and Rosalio Ahumada, McClatchy Newspapers –

MODESTO, Calif. — It’s over, says Jordan Powers, the 18-year-old California high school student who quit school to move in with her former teacher.

The 41-year-old James Hooker was arrested by Modesto, Calif., police Friday on charges of sexually assaulting a different teenage girl 14 years ago.

“He called me from jail and, yes, I told him that we’re done,” Powers told “ABC News” on Saturday morning. “I lost everything for this guy. I lost my senior year. I gave up all my friends at high school because they didn’t agree with me.”

Hooker posted $50,000 bail about 5 a.m. Saturday and was released from the Stanislaus County Jail, sheriff’s officials said. He avoided reporters who spotted him riding a bicycle in a park and in his apartment complex.

Until February, Powers was a student at Enochs High School and Hooker was a business teacher and adviser to several campus clubs. The former couple has said their student-teacher relationship became romantic last fall, after Powers turned 18.

The Modesto City Schools District suspended Hooker Feb. 3 during an initial investigation. He left his wife and three daughters two weeks later and moved into an apartment in Modesto. He moved Powers out of her mother’s house and into the apartment days later. He resigned his teaching position the same day and remains unemployed.

Powers’ mother, Tammie Powers, vigorously opposed the relationship, using her Facebook account to berate Hooker and accuse him of wooing her daughter before she turned 18. Tammie Powers said she discovered an estimated 8,000 text messages between the two, dating back to last summer.

Modesto police began their own investigation, even as Hooker and Jordan Powers became overnight media celebrities. After The Modesto Bee published a story about their relationship, they appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the syndicated “Dr. Phil” show to defend themselves.

Tammie Powers kept up her social media campaign, appeared opposite them on “Dr. Phil,” and worked with California Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Modesto on legislation that would make such student-teacher relationships a crime in California, even if the student is 18.

Hooker’s arrest Friday had nothing to do with his involvement with Jordan Powers. Police say they have developed evidence that he was involved with a then-17-year-old girl in 1998 while a teacher at Davis High School in Modesto. Police say the alleged victim was in a local high school, but not a Davis student.

Hooker appeared briefly in court Friday afternoon. He is charged with one count of oral copulation with a minor.

“He told me that he met her online and he hung out with her just as friends, and then he went to her house and she came out of the bathroom naked and he only touched her boobs and her legs,” Jordan Powers told ABC. “He was freaked out so he left and went home. He said nothing else happened, but all of that was a lie.”

Jordan Powers has always maintained that her romance with Hooker did not begin until after her 18th birthday in September. She said in late February he was getting a divorce, but they had no plans to marry. She was working to finish her classes through independent study and had been accepted to Modesto Junior College, hoping to become a nurse.

His confession to her from jail of a prior affair was devastating.

“He did not deny it. My heart dropped. I felt betrayed,” she said. “I just have a gut feeling that there’s other girls.”

“How could he lie to me for all these months and look me in the eye and tell me he loves me?” she told ABC. “I don’t know how someone could have such a cold heart.”

Jordan Powers said she now believes there were others.

Tammie Powers always believed this was a pattern, keeping the issue of predatory teachers at the forefront with the help of her nearly 7,000 Facebook subscribers. Hooker called it her “personal crusade.”

Hooker has told The Bee that he knew his choices had hurt many people, among them his 17-year-old daughter who was a popular junior at Enochs High, active in student leadership and academic competitions. She transferred to a new school.

The Hooker family has stayed out of the limelight, speaking only through a family friend.

Jordan Powers, who left the state Friday, said through her mother that she was not available for comment on Saturday.

Hooker was spotted riding his bicycle toward his Modesto apartment Saturday, but he turned in the opposite direction and rode away after a reporter and a photographer from The Bee approached him seeking a comment.

Two local TV news crews and a representative from ABC News also waited for Hooker at his home. It appeared that Hooker had arranged to tell his side of the story to “ABC News” in an exclusive interview, but Hooker was now also avoiding “ABC News.”

At one point, Hooker was spotted on his bike at a nearby park apparently waiting for the news crews to leave his apartment complex. Hooker rode his bicycle back to his apartment, and the news crews followed. But Hooker refused to talk to the news media.

Hooker is scheduled to appear for a pretrial hearing Tuesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court, where a judge will determine whether to reduce his bail amount.

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