HIGHGATE — A Highgate paraeducator charged with sending sexually explicit messages to a 10-year-old boy now faces additional charges for alleged sexually assaulting the same child.

Josie Spears, 33, is now charged with aggravated sexual assault on a victim less than 13 years old, repeated aggravated sexual assault with a child and two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. All those charges are felonies, carrying sentences anywhere from two years to life.

Those charges are in addition to another felony charge of lewd and lascivious conduct, on which police initially arrested Spears in late February, and a misdemeanor charge of violating her conditions of release. Spears was in court Monday to answer to only that charge.

She is now held without bail at the Chittenden County Correctional Facility. Spears turned herself in to police Wednesday.

The Northwest Unit for Special Investigations (NUSI)’s ongoing investigation led to the new charges.

Spears was initially arrested after the alleged victim’s mother discovered sexually explicit messages from Spears while reviewing the alleged victim’s social media on his phone. At the time, the boy told investigators Spears did not inappropriately touch him, but would “only give him hugs.”

In early April, investigators learned the boy had admitted the opposite to his therapist and his parents, after the boy’s mother again came forward, according to NUSI Detective Trooper Richard Stepien’s court affidavit.

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