RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – An Orange County Schools employee was arrested Friday morning on child sex charges that date back more than 30 years, according to records.
William Thomas Pendergrass III, of Raleigh, was taken into custody around 8 a.m. Friday on charges of indecent liberties with a child and statutory rape/sex offense of child 15 or younger.
The charges, filed by Cary police, date back to July 14, 1986, through July 13, 1987, and involve a victim who was 15 at the time, arrest records show.
Pendergrass has been placed on administrative leave from the Orange County School System while the district investigates.
The school system said it learned of Pendergrass’ arrest Friday.
“The charges do not involve the Orange County Schools or our students, but are based on alleged conduct from years ago outside of the Orange County Schools,” a spokeswoman for the district said.
Pendergrass began working for Orange County Schools on Aug. 19. He was listed on the Gravelly Middle School website as its band teacher.
Ravenscroft in Raleigh said Pendergrass was fired from the school in April after it received a written complaint.
“To date, Ravenscroft has not received any reports of sexual misconduct that occurred during his employment at Ravenscroft,” a spokeswoman for Ravenscroft said. “We worked cooperatively with law enforcement, and at the same time, took steps to ensure the safety of our current students by removing this individual’s access to our campus and our students.”
Ravenscroft has asked anyone with relevant information concerning Pendergrass to contact law enforcement.
“This news has shocked and saddened our community. We are working with child protection professionals to provide our community with support and care during this time,” the school’s spokeswoman said.
Sources say before Ravenscroft, Pendergrass taught in Virginia Beach.
One of his former students in Virginia didn’t want to be identified but told our sister station, CBS 17, “I am not very surprised but saddened. He was somewhat of a flirt. I remember him bringing a girl around a lot (she was my age). I thought it was weird at the time.”
“I think one of the most important things now is in this #metoo movement, people are more comfortable coming forward and hoping they’ll be believed,” said assistant district attorney Melanie Shekita.
Shekita said the victim first came forward in the 1990s. But, nothing came of it.
“I think the climate has changed,” she said. “I think in this case she happened to have a new set of eyes to look back over it and was ready to move forward.”
Pendergrass turned himself in after he was contacted by authorities.
There’s no statute of limitations for felonies.
“Is there any reason to believe there are more victims out there in this case?” sister station, CBS 17 asked Shekita.
“I hope if there are they would contact law enforcement,” she answered.
Shekita said most victims never come forward, but she encourages they do.
“Most children are not ready to tell immediately and if they ever tell, it’s usually a delayed disclosure and this is obviously one of the most significant, but not unheard of,” she said.
Pendergrass turned himself in at the Wake County Detention Center. The Wake County Sheriff’s Office said the case is being investigated by Cary police.
He charged with three counts felony indecent liberties with a child and three felony counts statutory rape/sex offense of child 15 or younger.
Pendergrass is being held in the Wake County Detention Center under a $1.6 million secured bond. He’s scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 7.