July 1, 2019 at 5:25 PM EDT – Updated February 24 at 12:37 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The District Attorney’s Office and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office have requested the State Bureau of Investigation look into New Hanover County Schools’ handling of the Mike Kelly case.
Last week, Michael Earl Kelly, a former science teacher at Isaac Bear Early College High School, entered guilty pleas to 59 charges, including sexual exploitation of minor, indecent liberties with a student and indecent liberties with a child. Kelly, 50, was sentenced to 17.6-31.25 years in prison for the crimes.
According to a news release from District Attorney Ben David’s office on Monday, David and New Hanover Sheriff Ed McMahon jointly requested the SBI’s assistance to determine if there was a violation of any law in the handling of sexual offense claims allegedly brought to the attention of NHC Schools administration.
David said in the release the sheriff’s office received information detailing similar allegations unrelated to the Kelly case.
“The Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation into these allegations as well but now believes, as I do, that they should be reviewed by outside agents with the SBI,” David wrote.
A formal request has been made to the state Attorney General’s Office to serve in an advisory capacity during the SBI’s investigation and prosecute any possible violations of the law.
David said prosecutors in his office and NHC sheriff’s deputies may be interviewed about the underlying sexual assault case, which would create a conflict of interest as both continue to handle current allegations.
Therefore, an investigation by outside prosecutors should remove any appearance of impropriety and satisfy concerns that a decision will be based on facts and law, not longstanding relationships between David’s office, the NHC Sheriff’s Office and NHC Schools.
“Everyone in the community should welcome a thorough review of these troubling allegations by agencies with no local ties,” David wrote. “It is my hope that the community will have confidence in the process and see a just conclusion to this matter. Our children and those who care for them every day deserve nothing less.”
After a Monday night closed session meeting, the NHC Board of Education released the following statement, saying it is launching an internal investigation:
“To reiterate prior statements from the district, the New Hanover County Board of Education strongly and completely condemns the actions of Michael Earl Kelly who pled guilty last week to numerous crimes. The Board expresses our sorrow to all the victims and their families affected by Kelly’s heinous acts. In light of allegations made against New Hanover County Schools during the recent sentencing of Kelly, the NHC Board of Education has launched an internal investigation into incidents that allegedly occurred in 2006. We will continue to fully cooperate with any and all ongoing investigations. Once the investigations are complete we will take appropriate action.”
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