ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY PRESS RELEASE
Case # 15HF0219
Date: June 5, 2015
*Ghirelli was also convicted of furnishing a controlled substance
NEWPORT BEACH – Two former female high school teachers were convicted and sentenced today for unlawful sexual intercourse with an underage male student during an alcohol and drug fueled camping trip at San Clemente State Beach. Melody Suzanne Lippert, 38, Covina, pleaded guilty to one felony count of unlawful sexual intercourse. She was sentenced to three years formal probation and three months in jail stayed pending completion of 15 days of CalTrans.
Co-defendant Michelle Louise Ghirelli, 30, West Covina, pleaded guilty to one felony count of unlawful sexual intercourse and one felony count of furnishing a controlled substance. She was sentenced to three years formal probation and 180 days in jail stayed pending completion of 180 days in a lock-down rehabilitation facility. The defendants’ conviction in this case qualifies them, under the California Education Code, to have their teaching credentials revoked for life in the State of California.
At the time of the crimes, Lippert was a teacher at South Hills High School in West Covina and Ghirelli was an employee with the Covina-Valley Unified School District.
Lippert organized a trip that was not approved by the school or district by sending a group text message and inviting co-defendant Ghirelli and five other male high school students to a camping trip at San Clemente State Beach.
Between Dec. 27, 2014, and Dec. 29, 2014, the defendants camped with the five students at San Clemente State Beach and Ghirelli illegally distributed alcohol and cocaine to the underage students during the trip.
At some point during the trip, Lippert facilitated Ghirelli’s sexual relationship with 17-year-old John Doe. Ghirelli engaged in unlawful sexual intercourse with John Doe and orally copulated the victim.
The Covina-Valley Unified School District reported the incident to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who investigated this case.
During the sentencing today, the People read an impact statement to the court prepared by the victim’s family pursuant to Marsy’s Law, which said in part, “He used to be an outgoing and social kid but after the situation was brought to light, he would come home from school and prefer to be by himself. He was quiet and alone in his thoughts. We are a tight knit family and to know he was distancing himself from everyone was taking a toll on the whole family.” The impact statement went on to say, “I wish she could see the damage she’s done to him and how her actions are going to influence the rest of his life. He is a child and there is no doubt in my mind that she is a sexual predator. We not only feel for our brother, son grandson, and nephew, but we feel for her family as well. Her husband and children are in our thoughts and we hope that her children never experiences what she put him through.”
Deputy District Attorney Kristin Bracic of the Sexual Assault Unit prosecuted this case.
TONY RACKAUCKAS, District Attorney
Susan Kang Schroeder, Chief of Staff