Speech therapist denies threatening co-workers at high school

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Gavel and judge

VISTA, Calif. — A former speech therapist at Rancho Buena Vista High School, who allegedly threatened co-workers while working at the northern San Diego County campus, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of burglary, making criminal threats and vandalism.

Arturo Avina, 33, was taken into custody by a SWAT team last Friday morning in connection with a series of menacing messages he allegedly sent to co-workers. The victims began receiving the messages last month, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Shane Watts.

Authorities released no details on the nature of the purported threats and did not specify the number of alleged victims. However, no students were involved in the threats, according to Lisa Contreras, director of communications for Vista Unified School District.

“At no time were there any students who were in danger,” Contreras said.

Avina, who faces three years and eight months in prison if convicted, worked for the school district from August 2017 until January of this year, Contreras said.

He’s being held in lieu of $500,000 bail and is due back in court March 20 for a readiness conference.

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