Ex-school employee indicted on 22 new charges in student rape case

Ex-school employee indicted on 22 new charges in student rape case
Nicholas Oates (Source: New Hanover County Detention Center)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A former special education assistant accused earlier this year of molesting one of his students has been indicted on 24 charges, according to court documents.

Nicholas Lavon Oates, 39, was first charged July 7 with indecent liberties with a child and statutory rape of a child under the age of 15. His arrest came around a year and a half after he abruptly left Myrtle Grove Middle School amid an internal investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior.

Last week, a grand jury indicted Oates on those two initial charges, as well as four additional counts of indecent liberties with a child, six counts of statutory sex offense with a child under the age of 15, four counts of second-degree kidnapping, four counts of taking indecent liberties with a student, and four counts of sexual activity with a student.

Oates’ employment at Myrtle Grove Middle School

New Hanover County Schools first hired Oates as a special education assistant at Myrtle Grove on Jan. 16, 2016, according to records.

Though he faced no disciplinary actions in his first 11 months on the job, at least based on public personnel information, Oates was suspended without pay on Dec. 2, 2016 while the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office investigated text messages exchanged between him and a female student.

The messages – at least some of which were sexually suggestive – were ultimately deemed not criminal, and Oates was reinstated on Dec. 13, 2016.

But a little over a month later, Oates was again suspended without pay, this time after teachers came forward with allegations of misconduct, according to sources speaking on background. That suspension lasted until Oates’ resignation on Feb. 1, 2017.

New Hanover County Schools repeatedly declined releasing more information about Oates’ alleged behavior while at Myrtle Grove, citing the state’s personnel law. However, investigators have seized Oates’ NHCS personnel file, calling it “key evidence” in the ongoing criminal investigation.

22 new charges

According to an application in support of a search warrant, the alleged victim in the case told investigators Oates began molesting her in 2016 when she was a 12-year-old student at Myrtle Grove, and that a sexual relationship began after she turned 13.

The girl, now 14, said Oates would often pick her up from her home after her mother left for work and either take her to Myrtle Grove’s parking lot or to his home.

Though the alleged inappropriate relationship apparently began in 2016, Oates has only been charged for incidents occurring in June and July of this year, according to the indictments. Specific dates noted are June 6, June 23 through July 1, July 1 through July 5, and July 5 through July 7.

According to North Carolina law, a person can be charged with sexual activity with a student provided the person was employed at the school the same time the student attended, and the victim is still enrolled.

Oates remains in jail under a $1 million bond.

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