A second woman has filed a lawsuit accusing a longtime Newburgh school district gym teacher and coach of sexually abusing her while she was in elementary school in the 1970s.
The new case alleges Sherman Memmelaar started molesting the plaintiff, Alicia Kirby, in 1978 while she was in fourth grade at Union Grove Elementary School, and did so on multiple occasions. The suit was filed in state Supreme Court last week under a 2019 state law that gave past victims of child sex abuse a one-year opportunity to file suits.
Memmelaar, who retired in 2001 after 32 years with the district, killed himself in October after another former Union Grove student, Sandra Burke, brought the first set of allegations against him under the Child Victims Act. He strongly denied her accusations in an interview with the Times Herald-Record several days before taking his life.
Both suits seek unspecified amounts in damages and name the school district and Memmelaar's estate as defendants.
Last week, attorneys for Memmelaar's widow, Sandra, counter-sued Evan Foulke, the Goshen attorney representing both plaintiffs, alleging statements he made to reporters about the first lawsuit were libelous and prompted Memmelaar's suicide. They also are demanding the district indemnify his widow against having to pay Burke any damages - which they say the district has refused to do - or else divide the expense “on a proportionate basis.”
The district's lawyers responded to Burke's claims last year by saying no claims of inappropriate conduct were mentioned in Memmelaar's annual evaluations and other school records, a huge volume of which were submitted as court exhibits. They also noted that the lawsuit didn't name any school employees who may have known about the alleged abuse.
Foulke then filed an amended complaint in January that identified two teachers - Garth Conn and Jean Patterson - whom Burke allegedly told in 1973 that Memmelaar was molesting her. The complaint also describes another red flag that year: Memmelaar allegedly escorted the fourth-grade girl to the school nurse, Florence Hyatt, after she repeatedly vomited after a sexual assault.
Burke now lives in Sullivan County, and Kirby lives in Orange County. Union Grove, the elementary school in the Town of Newburgh that they attended, was torn down in 1981 after its students and staff were moved to Meadow Hill Elementary School.
Memmelaar, who lived in Goshen and was 74 when he died, taught physical education and coached football, wrestling and track in the Newburgh school district for his whole career.