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Charges added to case of former SV school security guard

EVANS CITY — Charges were amended at a preliminary hearing Tuesday for a former Seneca Valley School District security guard accused of touching a student inappropriately last year.

Matthew A. Cowan, 24, of Brackenridge, was formerly employed by Securitas Security Services USA, a private company that provided security services to the Seneca Valley campus. According to authorities, Cowan has not been employed by the security company since October 2021.

On Oct. 20, 2022, Cowan was charged by Jackson Township police with felonies aggravated indecent assault forcible consumption, sexual contact with a student, criminal use of a communication facility and misdemeanor indecent assault forcible consumption.

Dave Beichner, assistant district attorney, asked that additional charges of felony aggravated indecent assault without consent and misdemeanors strangulation and indecent assault without consent be added to the criminal complaint against Cowan. District Judge Amy Marcinkiewicz added the charges following witness testimony.

According to charging documents, an investigation began in October 2021 after a 17-year-old female student reported an alleged assault to police.

The juvenile, now 18, was called to testify about the August 2021 incident. She said during cross-examination she and Cowan had been in contact on the app Snapchat for eight months prior to the start of the 2021 school year.

In her initial testimony, the juvenile said she contacted Cowan for help finding a classroom in the senior high school on one of the first days of school. Cowan was employed as a middle school security guard at the time.

“I asked him to meet me outside near the baseball field, near the trail,” she said.

The student said Cowan led her farther back on the trail, pushed her against a tree, and touched her inappropriately for 10 minutes.

“I told him no, and to stop, but he didn’t,” she said. “I tried to push him off me.”

Beichner asked her if Cowan restrained her during the incident, to which she said he placed his hands on her neck for less than a minute, making her lightheaded.

The student said she walked away after the encounter, and that Cowan didn’t hold her back. She added that Cowan apologized an hour later via Snapchat.

Jason Young, a member of school police for Seneca Valley’s district, testified that the key fob system on campus recorded Cowan leaving the middle school at the time the student reported meeting him and returning 30 minutes later.

During final argument, Al Lindsay, Cowan’s defense attorney, asked that the sexual contact with a student charge be dismissed on the grounds that the terms used are for someone who is in care, supervision, guidance or control of students. Lindsay also asked for the criminal use of a communication facility charge to be dismissed.

“It doesn’t meet the definition of ‘direct contact with a student,’” he said. “As I understand the testimony, (the juvenile) contacted him to some purpose, and he responded to her as the testimony said, and this was not the first time.”

Marcinkiewicz said she would hold all charges, including the additions requested by Beichner, for Common Pleas Court.

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