W.Va. teacher faces sex charges

February 10, 2001|By JULIE E. GREENE

W.Va. teacher faces sex charges

RANSON, W.Va. - A Ranson Elementary School third-grade teacher was arrested Friday after a junior high student complained the teacher used the Internet to try to entice her to have sex.

Stephen Alexander Lawrence, 31, of 205 E. 6th Ave. in Ranson, was charged with two counts of attempted third-degree sexual assault, Charles Town Police said.

Lawrence was released Friday on $35,000 bond, police said.

Lawrence was teaching Thursday, the day after the complaint was filed. He was not teaching Friday after police told him to stay away from the school that day.

Police executed a search and seizure warrant at Lawrence's home Thursday, confiscating his computers, said Cpl. Steve Harris. Harris wouldn't release further details about what was confiscated.


Harris emphasized that police had not uncovered any evidence as of Friday that Lawrence had shown "improper behavior" at school. Internet contact with two girls younger than 16 occurred during evening hours, according to the criminal complaint filed in Jefferson County Magistrate Court.

"Obviously, when I heard about it I was pretty shocked and disappointed," said Jefferson County Schools Superintendent David W. Markoe. "He's been a good teacher."

Markoe notified Charles Town Police of the complaint Wednesday afternoon after a Charles Town Middle-Junior High School student told a teacher about the Internet messages.

Lawrence has been teaching at Ranson Elementary for about seven years, Markoe said. He also coaches football and girls' track at Charles Town Middle-Junior High. The junior high teaches seventh through ninth grades.

Markoe said he hadn't had a chance to talk to Lawrence yet and didn't expect to do so until Monday. Typically, a teacher in this type of situation would be suspended with pay until a trial is completed, Markoe said.

"He's presumed innocent until proven guilty," Markoe said.

On Wednesday the student told a teacher that Lawrence was contacting her and other female students under the age of 16 using the Internet, according to the criminal complaint.

The instant messages to this girl began last September, starting with Lawrence commenting on her looking upset at school and leading to messages of a sexual nature, the complaint states.

The investigation led police to a second girl, who is younger than 16 and a member of the track team Lawrence coaches, according to the criminal complaint.

The girl told police Lawrence began contacting her via the Internet on Dec. 4.

Lawrence allegedly offered to give the girl a ride home from a sports event, but the girl declined, the complaint states. He also allegedly told her he wanted to watch her swim at the gym they both go to and asked her to sneak out of her house and meet him at Jefferson Memorial Park, the complaint states.

He told the girl he loved her and wanted to marry her, the complaint states.

According to the complaint, Lawrence used the screen names STELAW3rd and STEVLAW3rd. He had an America Online Web site that was still up on Friday and his AOL profile identified him by name, hometown and occupation.

In his AOL profile his personal quote was, " 'I LOVE THE LITTLE PEOPLE' 'I BELIEVE THE CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE'."

His Web site is entitled, "Smoky's Profile Web Page" and describes him, where he lives and his likes.

On the site he states, "I spend a great deal of time online with the jr. high kids I deal with most everyday."

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