A local school bus driver is accused of taking one of his passengers - a 15-year-old girl - to a motel room and raping her, according to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.
Alexander Rodriquez, 34, is charged with rape for the incident that happened yesterday.
The 15-year-old high school student was reported missing around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and was last seen boarding the bus that Rodriquez was driving on Wednesday afternoon, according to police.
When she returned home at about 10:16 p.m. Wednesday, she told deputies that after boarding the bus, she rode with Rodriquez to the garage where the buses are kept, and then got into his car and went to a motel with him.
She said the pair entered a room at Super 8 Motel at 8934 Lee Highway and that's when Rodriquez forced her to perform oral sex and raped her, the teenager told investigators.
She repeatedly told him no, according to the affidavit.
The girl told deputies that at some point that night, Rodriquez received a call on his cell phone from investigators, who asked whether he knew anything about where she was.
She said that after that call, Rodriquez put her back in the car and drove her to the Birchwood area, then sent her out of the car. She said it took her about an hour to walk home.
When investigators interviewed Rodriquez, he said that he did not know the girl and never saw her on his bus. But later, he said that she had been on the bus and that he had given her a ride to a Krystal restaurant.
When investigators asked about taking the girl to a motel, Rodriquez asked for an attorney.
Rodriquez is employed with Durham School Services, which provides the majority of the bus drivers and buses for schools in Hamilton County. The school system also independently contracts with some bus drivers.
Hamilton County Schools uses Durham to cover 203 routes, while independent owner-operators cover 49 routes. The company has been contracting with the school system since 2007. Nationwide, Durham School Services has more than 23,000 employees.
Durham officials did not immediate respond to requests for comment.
Ben Coulter, transportation director at Hamilton County Schools, said Rodriquez has been suspended without pay pending the results of the criminal investigation.
He added that all buses are equipped with cameras and that nothing like this has happened before in his six-year tenure as director.
Rodriquez was booked into the Hamilton County Jail and his bond was set at $350,000. He was cited in May 2014 for speeding while driving a bus but does not have any other charges on his criminal record. The speeding charge was dismissed in August 2014.
He is scheduled to appear in court on March 23.
Stay with the Times Free Press for updates on this developing story. Staff writer Tim Omarzu contributed to this report.