A former Charleston High School teacher and coach has been charged with sexual battery for allegedly having sex with a minor student while he was employed at the school.
Willie Bell III, 27, of 717 Boothe St., Batesville, was arrested Thursday, Feb. 15, at 12:50 p.m., after turning himself in to officials at the Tallahatchie County Jail in Charleston. He was released at 4:15 p.m. the same day after posting a bond of $20,000.
According to a Tallahatchie County Circuit Court document, a minor female student at CHS — her age is not listed — charged that on or about Nov. 28, 2017, Bell “engaged in sexual intercourse” with her.
At the time, Bell was in his second year of employment as the Algebra I teacher and head coach of the boys’ varsity basketball team at CHS.
The charges were investigated by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Tallahatchie County Sheriff’s Office and a warrant was issued Feb. 15 for Bell’s arrest, according to Tallahatchie County Sheriff William Brewer, who referred other questions to District Attorney John Champion.
“All these allegations, we take very seriously and make sure that they’re investigated properly, which is what we’ve done here,” Champion said Friday afternoon. “Now we’ve got to get everything put together and presented to the grand jury and let them make their decision.”
A grand jury will determine whether the evidence against Bell justifies their issuance of a formal indictment, Champion added.
The next grand jury is scheduled to be impaneled in Tallahatchie County’s First Judicial District on April 24, according to Circuit Clerk Daphane Neal.
First official news of the serious accusation against Bell apparently was presented to the East Tallahatchie School District Board of Trustees in executive session at their Jan. 11 regular meeting, according to recently obtained minutes from that meeting.
During that same meeting, the minutes show, ETSD Superintendent Dr. Ben Kennedy informed the board that effective Jan. 10, Bell resigned his positions at CHS.
Contacted Friday afternoon, Kennedy declined comment except to read the following prepared statement that he said had been approved by the school board’s attorney: “The employee no longer works for the district. The district has been cooperating with law enforcement on the investigation. Since this is a matter involving a former employee, we cannot comment further.”
A conviction on a charge of sexual battery carries a prison sentence of up to 30 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
During his five-year career, Bell, a native of Jackson, had previously taught in the Jackson, Hattiesburg and Raymond public schools.
IN THE PHOTO: Willie Bell III, former Algebra I teacher and boys' basketball coach at CHS, is pictured in December 2016.