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Menlo preschool director changes plea to no contest

Must register as sex offender, but avoids trial

In a surprise move, the 55-year-old former director of Menlo Park's Belle Haven childcare center charged with harassing the teenage daughter of a co-worker changed his plea to no contest on the day his trial was set to begin.

Jose Adalberto Lopez, of San Mateo, will serve no more than 90 days in county jail for the misdemeanor, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's office. He will be sentenced on Dec. 10.

"The court will consider less after reviewing the pre-sentence report," Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. "The defendant will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life."

Mr. Lopez met the 13-year-old girl when she came to the preschool to do homework, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

As time passed the man gave her gifts -- earrings, a silver bracelet, and women's underwear. The district attorney's office said that when she stopped speaking to him, he sent letters asking why she was ignoring him.

Those letters proved to be his undoing. A secretary found one earlier this year and turned it over to the victim's mother, who called police.

He had worked at the Belle Haven childcare center since 2001.

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