Warning: This article contains mention of sexual abuse, mental health and suicide, which may be triggering to some.
NEW HANOVER COUNTY –– Thursday evening, an alleged child sex abuse victim filed a report with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office against the vice principal of Noble Middle School.
David Eugene Bostian, 59, was arrested early Friday morning after being charged with two counts of sexual offense. He is accused of initiating a two-year physical relationship with the woman when she was a freshman in 1990 and continuing it as she turned 15- and 16-years-old.
The victim provided to law enforcement, as well as Port City Daily, 30-plus screenshots of text messages between her and Bostian from Mar. 18 through Mar. 25. In the messages, Bostian admits to the relationship on multiple occasions.
“I take all responsibility,” he wrote in one text, provided to Port City Daily. “I’m just saying that what I did has been with me deep down.”
Within hours of Claudia Gardner breaking her 30-year silence to a deputy, Bostian resigned from his position. He was taken into custody, released on a $150,000 unsecured bond, and later found dead in the driveway of his home.
Gardner used to consider Bostian — who was then a physical education teacher and football coach at New Hanover High School — her high-school boyfriend. Now she considers him a predator.
“It sounds so stupid coming out of my mouth now, but I honestly believed that I loved him and he loved me, and we would just ride off into the sunset,” she told Port City Daily on a Mar. 25 phone call. “It was ridiculous.”
The relationship began when Gardner enrolled in Bostian’s weightlifting class in ninth grade. Bostian later called her home phone and inquired about recruiting her 14-year-old boyfriend at the time to the junior varsity football team, according to Gardner.
After that, the two started talking more frequently. He convinced her to break up with her boyfriend, she said, by telling her she was “too mature for guys” her age and needed “a real man.”
According to Gardner, they often snuck around after school. She would fill out paperwork for Bostian, and they met on school grounds and in the New Hanover Regional Medical Center parking lot. She said they had “a lot of physical contact,” which included oral sex while she was still a minor.
“He just told me everything I wanted to hear and I’d meet him in the hospital parking lot, and we would kiss and hold hands and fondle,” Gardner said. “It was disgusting. I don’t even want to think about it.”
Looking back, Gardner believes she was groomed and calls herself an “easy target.” When the two became “friends” in the ninth grade, Gardner said she was battling depression and insecurities. She was working through the trauma of early childhood abuse. She said at the time, Bostian was the “celebrity” of the school and made her feel special.
“I thought I was the chosen one,” she said. “I thought that the other girls envied my position. I had no idea how I was being manipulated.”
Throughout the next two years, Gardner said they discussed plans to marry and move together to Hamlet, his hometown.
Other classmates and Bostian’s football players knew about the relationship, she said, but she does not believe staff or administrators did. A photo shared with Port City Daily showed a peer wrote in Gardner’s yearbook: “I hope that you and coach work things out so you don’t have to go behind [his wife’s] back!”
Before Gardner’s senior year, they broke things off in the hospital parking lot. Gardner said Bostian would get jealous when she wanted to partake in normal teenage activities, like attending junior prom. Bostian got married during their relationship, and although he previously said he would leave his wife, he said the day they broke up he was never going to, according to Gardner.
“I remember leaving the hospital parking lot, and I wanted to drive my car into the Cape Fear River,” she said. “I carried that depression and that self-hatred and that shame for so many years.”
Gardner started dating other people and became pregnant at age 17. She said she pushed away dealing with childhood trauma to focus on being a mother.
“I’m looking at it now like, ‘How would I feel if my child went to Noble Middle School and a 45-year-old woman somewhere knew all this and did not disclose it?’” she said. “That’s why I’m disclosing it.”
For years Gardner said she kept quiet, carrying guilt and feeling embarrassed about “running around with this married man.”
Sometime over the years, the two became friends on Facebook. Bostian would occasionally like or comment on her posts, she said.
Last month Gardner found Bostian’s number in the comments of a social media post and decided to contact him. She first called him Mar. 18, but he didn’t answer. Instead, she texted him, asking him to “show some remorse.”
“Who is this?” he responded.
“Claudia. Although I’m sure that there are probably 30 like me who could have sent it.”
“Was there more than one Claudia?”
The two continued to text. He apologized but refused to admit he preyed on her, as Gardner accused him of repeatedly.
“I am not a creep,” he wrote in one text. “I was weak and screwed up and stupid. I am sorry!”
At one point, Bostian said someone suggested he run for the school board, but that his “first thought” was he would need to receive Gardner’s approval. Later in the conversation, he told Gardner two of his former teachers at Hoggard High met their current wives as students at their teaching jobs and asked if she would still feel the way she did had they married.
“I was absolutely repulsed,” she said.
On Monday, Mar. 22, she demanded he submit a resignation to New Hanover County Schools by Wednesday, Mar. 24, or she would go public. She said she didn’t feel comfortable with him working around middle school-aged girls. In the texts, she said he could continue with his real estate career.
Bostian begged to continue at his position through the remaining seven weeks of the school year, then retire. When Gardner said no, he detailed in texts how he would end his life.
Gardner called a suicide hotline, which transferred her to 911. Gardner believes first responders picked up Bostian from Noble Middle that afternoon. According to texts he sent, he was taken in for an evaluation.
The last time Gardner communicated with Bostian, she informed him over text that she disclosed details of their relationship to the emergency operator. New Hanover County 911 manager Debora Cottle told Port City Daily in a Mar. 29 email the center could not release a recording of the call, which is typically a public record, citing NC Statute 132-1.4 (d). Per the law, public records may be undisclosed if releasing them could pose a threat to the “mental health, physical health, or personal safety” of the complaining witness or “materially compromise” any possible investigation.
Days passed before Gardner ultimately took her case directly to law enforcement.
The death investigation
It’s unclear when Bostian left the facility Friday morning. He was arrested at 1 a.m., though never booked, and released on an unsecured bond.
It’s also unclear when Bostian sent his resignation letter to New Hanover County Schools. Bostian worked for the district since 1985, teaching physical education at New Hanover High School through 1997. He was a PE teacher at The International School at Gregory Elementary from 2007 to 2008. In 2010 he took over as vice principal at Noble.
Around 9 a.m. on Apr. 2, Wilmington police responded to a 911 call at Bostian’s home on Tipton Court.
He was found dead in his driveway.
The cause of Bostian’s death is still under investigation, according to law-enforcement officials.
New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lt. Jerry Brewer said under an unsecured bond, if a defendant is released and goes home, it is up to the family to take out involuntary commitment orders.
Unless an individual is severely incapacitated, they are unlikely to be involuntarily committed.
At approximately 4:30 p.m. on Apr. 2, NHCS Superintendent Charles Foust released the following statement: “I want to offer my deepest condolences to everyone affected by this case. We will wrap support around the Noble Middle School students and staff members during this difficult time. We also will remain vigilant to protect children and provide safe learning environments in all of our schools.”
He added that crisis counseling was provided Friday for students and staff of Noble Middle.
Port City Daily will update this article as more information becomes available.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7 at 800-273-8255. The service is free and confidential.
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