Man Acquitted in Fatal Dorm Fire to Lose Teaching Credentials

KANSAS CITY, Mo. ― A man who was acquitted in a fatal Kentucky dormitory fire has agreed to surrender his Missouri teaching and administrator licenses after he was accused of lying about his past to obtain the credentials, according to a settlement agreement in the case.

The Missouri Board of Education next week is set to consider the agreement that Jerry Walker Jr. reached with the Missouri attorney general’s office. Issues arose after the Jefferson City school district offered Walker an assistant principal job, contingent upon him passing a background check. The district then rescinded the offer in April when the check revealed problems, including Walker’s failure to disclose that he had been fired by a Kentucky school.

Walker, of West Paducah, Kentucky, didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Walker was twice tried for the Sept. 18, 1998, fire at Murray State University that killed student Michael Minger of Niceville, Florida, and injured several others. After the second trial ended in acquittal, Walker, a former Murray student, pleaded guilty in November 2012 to tampering with evidence charges, which were tied to six anonymous letters that tried to place blame for the fire on someone else.

In applying in September 2013 for Missouri education credentials, Walker was asked to disclose information about criminal charges, even if a sentence wasn’t imposed or was suspended. The settlement agreement said Walker mentioned only the tampering convictions, writing that he “wrote a letter in 1998 accusing a student of a crime that I thought that they committed.”

The settlement agreement said Walker also failed to disclose that the Paducah school district in Kentucky terminated his contract as an assistant middle school principal in June 2013 for “immoral conduct or conduct unbecoming a teacher.” His termination had nothing to do with the tampering guilty plea and was sustained by a Kentucky tribunal that found he “lied to his superiors about his relationship with another school employee.”

The settlement agreement said Walker told the Jefferson City district earlier this year that he was still employed as an assistant principal in Paducah. But Jefferson City school officials learned upon contacting the district that Walker had been fired, that he provided a fake supervisor name and that he listed his wife’s phone number as belonging to the purported supervisor.

Missouri education officials said that after Jefferson City rescinded the job offer, Walker submitted another application for education credentials in which he admitted to being fired because of an “accusation of an affair with a teacher in the building that I worked.”