WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A 2016 investigation into a New Hanover County middle school special education assistant ended after school and sheriff’s officials determined the sexually suggestive text messages sent to children were not illegal. But a newly unsealed court document confirms that a relationship between Nicholas Oates and a child involved in that investigation continued into this summer, ultimately leading to criminal charges being filed.
The document, which was kept under a court-ordered seal until mid-September, is a search warrant allowing the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office to seize the personnel file of Oates from his time as an employee of New Hanover County Schools.
Oates worked at Myrtle Grove Middle School as a special education assistant teacher for just over a year – from Jan. 19, 2016 to Feb. 1, 2017 when he abruptly resigned. But it wasn’t until his July 7 arrest on charges of indecent liberties with a child and statutory rape of a child under the age of 15 that his name made headlines.
The warrant describes his file as “key evidence” in the ongoing criminal case. It also incorrectly states Oates was fired, but supports many people’s assumptions that his separation from the school stemmed from his allegedly inappropriate behavior.
Through public records, WECT learned school administrators suspended Oates without pay twice during his employment – the first from Dec. 2-13, 2016 and the second from Jan. 26, 2017 until his resignation six days later. Speaking on background, people familiar with the situation told WECT both suspensions followed accusations of misconduct against Oates.
According to the warrant, investigators met with the father of the alleged 14-year-old victim the day before Oates’ arrest.
“He stated that he had been looking through his cell phone bill and noticed a large amount of minutes had been used by his daughter,” the warrant states. “He said when he confronted her about this issue, she stated that she had been dating Mr. Oates for the last two years and the two had sent and received numerous text messages and phone calls.”
Speaking with investigators, the girl said that Oates started touching her private areas when she was 12 years old, and that a sexual relationship developed when she turned 13. She further explained that Oates often would pick her up from her home after her mother left for work and take her to various locations, including his home.
“She also stated that Mr. Oates would take her to the parking lot of Myrtle Grove Middle School, also to the parking lot of Home Depot that was near the school,” the warrant states.
The girl added she and Oates had shared nude photos with one another, however, she had deleted them so her parents would not find them.
The document indicates the girl’s parents were made aware of the inappropriate texting during the school system’s investigation in late 2016/early 2017, and apparently were under the impression the relationship had been ended.
“The parents stated they confronted their child about the situation and was (sic) told that the text messages had stopped between her and Mr. Oates,” the warrant states.
Oates, 38, remains jailed in the New Hanover County Detention Center under a $1 million bond.