Friday, June 21, 2024

Court appearance: Child sex case against Wilmington teacher turned over to special state prosecutor

NHCS teacher Peter Michael Frank swears in for his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon while District Attorney Ben David, pictured center left, looks on. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

WILMINGTON — On Tuesday afternoon Roland Grise Middle School band teacher Peter Michael Frank appeared in court; there his $750,000 secured bond was not reduced and District Attorney Ben David said more serious charges are being contemplated.

Frank was arrested and charged with 12 felonies — six counts of indecent liberties with a minor and six indecent liberties with a student, according to District Attorney Ben David. Those charges each carry a potential maximum sentence of 59 months and 24 months respectively (or over 40 years, total).

Frank turned himself into law enforcement on Monday.

RELATED: New Hanover County teacher arrested on child sex charges had past suspension

“This came to the attention of law enforcement when a woman who is now over the age of thirty reached out to one of my employees,” David said outside the courtroom Tuesday afternoon. “They were classmates together at the time at Roland-Grise some 16 years ago.”

The woman told David’s employee Frank had inappropriately touched her when she was a student, according to David, which spawned an investigation with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.

“That led to not only substantiating those claims by this woman but also a much bigger investigation [that] has led to the discovery of five additional victims — at least one who is currently on campus and several others … who have gone to Hoggard High School,” David said.

Watch David’s comments after the court hearing on Tuesday afternoon:

David said the report his office received, reportedly on January 13, was the first complaint it received regarding Frank. According to David, his employee had spoken to the alleged victim in late December and brought it to the attention of an investigator in the DA’s office in late December or early January.

“And they immediately reported it,” David said. “My understanding is that the investigation has been going on the past couple of weeks to bring us to this point.”

Because David’s employee reported the alleged abuse, he said his office has passed the case along to the special prosecutors of Attorney General Josh Stein’s office due to a potential conflict of interest if that employee was called as a witness.

Stein’s special prosecution office is the same currently looking into claims being investigated by the North Carolina State Bureau of Information (SBI) on failures by the New Hanover County School district to report allegations against teachers Michael Kelly and Nicholas Oates. Kelly was sentenced to 17 to 31 years of imprisonment last year while Oates died while awaiting his own trial on child sex crime charges.

David implored administrators, teachers, coaches, parents, and all school employees to report any inappropriate behaviors.

“If they see something, they should say something also,” David said. “There is no statute of limitations on a felony in North Carolina, and there is nothing we won’t do to investigate these old claims.

David applauded the courage of the woman who first came forward, and for the other young women who have also reported alleged abuse by Frank.

“I want to implore the community to be the adults that our children deserve and respect, and report crime as they see it … We will protect you if you come forward, and you need to do that,” David said.

David then urged people who may have relevant information or believe they may be victims themselves, or know someone who is, to call the NHCSO Detective Division at (910) 878-4260. More information may be used to look into additional claims and gather additional witnesses.

Related Articles