Babysitter arrested on several child sex crime charges in Carolina Beach

The Carolina Beach Police Department shared details on Friday concerning the arrest of a 21-year-old man accused of several sex crimes involving a child.
Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 11:58 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 6, 2023 at 2:46 PM EDT
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CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - The Carolina Beach Police Department shared details on Friday concerning the arrest of a 21-year-old man accused of several sex crimes involving a child that he was babysitting.

According to the police department, Wilmington-resident Elijah Jacob Donato was charged with two counts of first degree sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.

The CBPD says that the NHCSO helped and took Donato into custody on the arrest warrants and transferred him to the CBPD. Police executed a search warrant at his home and seized more items, per the announcement.

In court, prosecutors told the judge that the victim’s parents found disturbing images on their Nest camera after Donato was hired as a private babysitter. They claimed Donato coerced the child to produce explicit images on Saturday, Sept. 23.

“An initial investigation uncovered evidence that Mr. Donato sexually exploited and took indecent liberties with a young child he was babysitting earlier this week. Warrants were approved for the arrest of the babysitter, Elijah Donato.,” the CBPD announcement states.

During Donato’s first court appearance Friday, he was ordered to be held under a $500,000 bond. If he is able to post bond, he is to be held under house arrest. The investigation is ongoing.

The CBPD says that he worked as a private babysitter for families in the county, and that investigators found he was employed as the YMCA Site Coordinator for the Afterschool Care program at Wrightsville Beach Elementary School. YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina notified WECT shortly after the CBPD announcement that Donato no longer works at the YMCA effective Thursday, Sept. 28.

“Student safety is the biggest priority for New Hanover County Schools. While this individual was not an NHCS employee and this incident did not happen at one of our sites, we take this matter seriously and we are working with law enforcement and the YMCA as they investigate,” New Hanover County Schools wrote in a statement on Friday afternoon.

The University of North Carolina Wilmington confirmed that he was a junior majoring in tourism, recreation and sport.

YMCA of Greater Charlotte provided a statement:

“The YMCA of Greater Charlotte has heard this report, and we are always saddened to hear of anything that may involve harm to a child. The individual is no longer employed with us. We are not aware of any reports of incidents that occurred at the Y in relation to this individual, and have no reason to believe that any child in our care was involved in any incident.”

The YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina noted on Oct. 6 that there have been no allegations made against Donato in the local community that the group knows of, and that local authorities have not informed the YMCA of any connection to the local branch.

The nonprofit released the following statement Friday afternoon, Sept. 29:

At the YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina, the safety of our members, program participants, and staff is our top priority.

We recently learned that one of our afterschool staff, Elijah Donato, was arrested for indecent liberties with a child and sexual exploitation of a minor. According to the Carolina Beach Police Department, Donato’s crimes involved a child that he was babysitting. The alleged actions did not take place in connection with any YMCA event or activity, nor did it transpire on YMCA property. Moreover, we do not have any reports or indications that Donato engaged in any inappropriate interactions or behavior connected with our YMCA.

Nonetheless, we take these allegations extremely seriously. As such, very shortly after learning this difficult news, our Leadership Team, including Human Resources, took appropriate action, including terminating Donato’s employment with the YMCA of Southeastern NC, effective September 28, 2023.

We have strong policies in place regarding the protection of minors, however, we are conducting our own internal investigation out of an abundance of caution and to ensure the continued safety and well-being of those minors who interact with our YMCA. We also stand ready to fully cooperate with the authorities with respect to the criminal charges pending against Donato.

At the YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina, the safety and well-being of children in our care always has been and always will be a top priority. We detest all forms of abuse and are committed to providing a safe environment to every person in our programs, most importantly children who are entrusted to our care. We have a series of measures in place to keep kids safe.

Prior to starting at our Y, all employees must pass a thorough background check, reference check, and complete training on preventing, recognizing, and responding to abuse. We also prohibit staff from being alone with a child where they cannot be observed by others. Additionally, all YMCA members and staff are checked against the National Sex Offender Registry.

We are working with New Hanover County Schools to keep parents, guardians, staff, and the community informed about the situation.

Our hearts and prayers are with those impacted by these heinous actions.