By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Federal investigators are hoping that last night's "America's Most Wanted" broadcast will help them find Eric Toth, a former D.C. area private-school teacher who disappeared after a fellow teacher found allegedly sexually oriented images of at least one boy on a school camera in Toth's possession.
The two-minute segment included new details about the case of the 26-year-old former teacher at Beauvoir, an elite private school on the grounds of Washington National Cathedral. In June, the day before classes ended for the year, another teacher reported finding the images. Toth was escorted from the campus, and the camera was turned over to authorities.
"America's Most Wanted" reported that authorities think that after Toth left school grounds June 9, he returned home, packed and then drove to his parents' home in Indianapolis. He left the next day and was later tracked to Madison, Wis., where according to authorities he bought several navigational devices, including a GPS unit, the show said.
In August, Toth's car was discovered in a garage at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, but authorities have not been able to determine whether he caught a flight. Authorities told The Washington Post last month that a note found in the car suggested that Toth planned to kill himself in a nearby lake, but no body has been found.
A law enforcement task force that targets child pornography obtained a warrant last month for Toth's arrest. Authorities with the FBI's Washington area Innocent Images Task Force would not say how many images were on the camera or whether any were of Beauvoir students.
Before the investigation, Toth had told school officials that he planned to leave his job at Beauvoir on June 10, the last day of school.
Peter Gillespie, a producer with "America's Most Wanted," said the show receives hundreds of tips each week, but Toth's case stood out because of the way the teacher was said to have sought to ingratiate himself with families at the school.
According to the show, Toth attended Cornell University for a year before transferring to Purdue University, where he graduated with an education degree. The show cited students who described Toth as a compulsive liar who bragged that he was a CIA agent and that the agency was paying for him to attend Cornell.
Officials told "America's Most Wanted" that Toth blogs on education Web sites and may advertise online as a tutor.
Paula J. Carreiro, head of Beauvoir, reiterated yesterday that Toth went through an extensive background check before he was hired to teach at the 386-student elementary school.
Toth, who began teaching there during the 2005-2006 school year, was one of eight teachers who taught about 80 third-grade boys and girls, Carreiro said.
Beauvoir officials sent several letters to parents in June to inform them about the investigation and offer information about child psychologists for counseling.
On Friday, an e-mail was sent to members of the school community to inform them about the "America's Most Wanted" segment.
School officials said yesterday they welcomed the effort to find Toth.
"We just feel this is another way for law enforcement officials to try and find this person,'' said Joan Fergerson, assistant head for institutional advancement at Beauvoir.
Beauvoir has students from pre-kindergarten through third grade and is affiliated with the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, which also oversees St. Albans School for boys and National Cathedral School for girls.
According to the school's Web site, tuition for the current school year is $25,970, plus a $700 registration fee.