Authorities arrested a former band director for Butler High School on Friday after two teenage students said the teacher had a prolonged sexual relationship with them.
Anthony Shelton had been under investigation by the Richmond County Sheriff's Office since May 1 after a student's mother filed a report claiming he had sex with her daughter when she was 15. Investigators say they have since uncovered allegations that Mr. Shelton made sexual advances to as many as six female students and that two girls had sexual intercourse with him in his school office.
By Friday afternoon, Mr. Shelton had been charged with two counts of child molestation and three counts of sexual assault against persons in custody, according to a sheriff's office news release.
Investigator Thelma Gilchrist said investigators anticipate additional charges after they interview more students who say they had contact with Mr. Shelton during his time as band director. However, investigators say they might never know the full scope of the case.
"You've got some females that are just not going to tell," Investigator Gilchrist said. "It's mostly fear of reprisals from the parents and embarrassment. These females are terrified."
In an interview with The Augusta Chronicle last week, Mr. Shelton denied the sexual assault allegations but admitted to allowing male and female band members to sleep at the school on at least two occasions.
A message left on his cell phone Friday was not immediately returned.
Incidents involving Mr. Shelton were first reported in an internal affairs investigation by the Richmond County school system, which examined accusations that he had made inappropriate comments to two female students. That investigation revealed members of the band would often call Mr. Shelton "daddy," according to the report. Mr. Shelton admitted this to investigators, saying he was also called "uncle," "godfather" and "pop."
"The kids that are in the band and surround the band say that I am more than just a teacher," Mr. Shelton said in a statement to the internal affairs office. "I'm the person they can come to when they can't turn to anyone else."
But many times, those who came to Mr. Shelton did so in the privacy of his office, according to the sheriff's office release.
Mr. Shelton is believed to have had sex with the two female students no less than nine times from September to December, the release states. Another student told investigators she came to his office to take a nap and awoke to find him fondling her breasts.
Mr. Shelton's office was equipped with cameras set up with a control system and a TV monitor, enabling an advance warning in the office of anyone approaching, according to Scott Richardson, the band director before Mr. Shelton. Mr. Richardson said Friday that he had been contacted by sheriff's Sgt. Richard Roundtree about the system, which he had installed.
"There were a lot of rumors that students were going in and having inappropriate relationships with each other," Mr. Richardson said. "I had it installed for the protection of the students and myself."
Mr. Richardson, who taught his successor how to use the equipment, said Mr. Shelton had black curtains installed to cover the office windows so he wouldn't be disturbed while he wrote music.
"What has happened does not reflect what is going on at Butler," Mr. Richardson said. "Just because this happened at Butler shouldn't give Butler a bad mark in the community."
Before starting at Butler High in August, Mr. Shelton was a volunteer assistant band leader at the Academy of Richmond County and Murphey Middle Charter School. He also regularly taught lessons out of his home, Investigator Gilchrist said.
The sheriff's office has not received any other allegations by Mr. Shelton's former students, but Investigator Gilchrist urged anyone who had inappropriate contact with him to alert police.
Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Investigators plan to continue interviewing students who have come forward with allegations against Mr. Shelton, Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Thelma Gilchrist says.