Former North Carolina teacher who pleaded guilty to over 12 sex crimes was seen as a 'father figure' by his teen victims
A former teacher from Isaac Bear has been sentenced to 16 to 24 years on charges of first-degree sexual exploitation and statutory sex with a minor. He has additionally also been charged with 50 others, which were consolidated for judgment. The 50-year-old Michael Earl Kelly pleaded guilty to over two dozen sex-related crimes against children. The case, that was investigated by the FBI, found that he had at least 11 victims.
He was arrested in February 2018 after an explicit Snapchat group that he ran with the students came to light. He had also shared lewd photos with the students and had a string of accusations of predatory behavior. He also had sex with a child below the age of 16. He was sentenced on Tuesday, June 25, with charges for sexual exploitation of minor, indecent liberties with a student and indecent liberties with a child.
Kelly's crimes came to light when a parent found inappropriate messages between Kelly and their child. Caroline Kuebler, the parent of an alleged victim showed a copy of a complaint against Kelly she filed back in 2003 when he was teaching at Laney High School, according to a report in WECT. However, Dr. Rick Holliday, who was the Laney principal at the time said he had no knowledge of the incident. The school district said that they do not have copies of complaints filed before 2004.
During his plea hearing, Assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan detailed the cases of abuse and said that he would "normalize sexual conversations" following which introduce pornography and would expose himself to the kids. His victims were as young as 14. His victims have described him as a "father figure" persona, Jordan told the court. He is also have said to have filmed a sexual act with a 15-year-old.
Jordon also revealed that Kelly used Craigslist to meet people in UNCW and Isaac Bear for sex, along with other locations. When Kelly spoke in court, he said that teaching was the "great joy of my professional life" and that he was proud of the students' academic success in spite of his "egregious mistakes". He said what he had done was "destructive behavior" revealing that he had also been sexually abused as a child.
Kelly will receive sexual offender therapy and will eventually be eligible for work release. However, he will have to register as a sex offender for 30 years and cannot have contact with the victims.