Retired Summit middle-school theater director arrested for alleged sexual contact with student

Ronald Wells

A retired drama teacher and theater director at a middle school in Summit has been arrested and charged with committing criminal offenses of a sexual nature against a student while on school grounds several years ago, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Summit Police Chief Andrew Bartolotti announced Monday.

Ronald Wells, 69, is charged with second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact, and fourth-degree criminal sexual contact.

An investigation by the Summit Police Department, assisted by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit, revealed that the incident in question took place in 2016 in a private third-floor room of the Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School, according to Special Victims Unit Supervisor and Assistant Prosecutor Caroline Lawlor, who is prosecuting the case. At that time Wells allegedly asked the victim to join him after school hours to model costumes for a school play, and between costume changes, began touching the student in a sexual manner.

Wells, a Summit resident, was arrested without incident on Friday pending a first appearance and detention hearing scheduled to take place in Union County Superior Court. Lawlor said she intended to file a petition to keep Wells detained pending the adjudication of the case against him.

“No child should be exposed to this kind of criminal conduct in our schools, especially from a person entrusted with their education,” said Ruotolo. “I am grateful that the Summit Police Department and my office were able to collaborate to bring this suspect to justice.”

Chief Bartolotti added, “I understand how difficult it is for a community when something like this happens so close to home. We will continue to work with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate further allegations and encourage any additional victims to please come forward.”

Anyone with information about this or similar incidents involving defendant Wells is being urged to contact Summit Police Department Detective Sgt. Ryan Peters at 908-273-5871.

Convictions on second-degree criminal offenses are commonly punishable by terms of 5 to 10 years in state prison.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.