SALUDA, SC (WIS) - A 30 year Saluda County middle school teacher accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor and possessing sexually explicit pictures of dozens of young boys who attended the school in the 1980's will stay in jail for the time being.
52-year-old Thomas Taylor of Saluda appeared in front of judge late Friday afternoon to answer to criminal sexual conduct in the 2nd degree and committing a lewd act on a minor under the age of 16. A Saluda County judge denied Taylor's bond.
Taylor told the judge he wasn't a flight risk. "I don't know how to live the rest of my life on the run," said Taylor. "I hope to be out to better put my affairs in order to get ready to fight this."
Taylor was arrested Wednesday afternoon after investigators found sex tapes and items used to whip people in a home he owned. Taylor is a teacher at Saluda Middle School. He's been suspended with pay pending an investigation, according Superintendent Dr. David Mathis.
Saluda County Sheriff Jason Booth, flanked by his investigators and a representative from the 11th Circuit Solicitor's office, stood in front of the media Friday to talk about the case. "This is a very sad day for all of us in Saluda County. As sheriff, I'm taking this case seriously," said Booth. "It's not right what has happened here in Saluda."
Booth said his investigators stumbled upon sexually explicit pictures of approximately 100 young boys while investigating a separate case involving a 19-year-old man who lived in a home owned by Taylor.
While investigating the 19-year-old, deputies found the pictures investigators believe date back to the 80's. Investigators don't believe any of the pictures they seized are of current students.
Booth said the house was full of pictures of 10 to 14-year-old students at recess and playing sports. Booth said some of the pictures depict, "young boys' underwear hanging out of their shorts." The boys were clothed but, "it was obvious he was taking pictures of their buttocks and private parts," Booth said.
There were no girls in any of the pictures and they were all taken on school property, according to Booth.
In the collection of pictures there were images of nude boys getting whipped. Investigators don't believe any of the nude photos include any of Taylor's students.
Investigators also found sex tapes, whips, and straps at one of Thomas's homes," according to Booth. Booth said some of the tapes and DVD's showed young boys getting paddled by paddles and grown men's hands. "
Booth said a witness came forward Thursday evening and advised law enforcement that Taylor started an inappropriate relationship with him when he was 13-years-old. Booth said Taylor took the boy to places live Atlanta, Charlotte and Los Angeles. He is bringing in the FBI to assist with the investigation because the relationship was taken over state lines.
Booth believes there could be others who have been victimized by Taylor. "We have already received evidence that indicates there are multiple victims involved," said Booth. "We're going to interview many, many people in the next few weeks."
If this teacher touched you in any inappropriate ways over the years, please come forward," said Booth who added any current or former students who have information about Taylor or questions about the investigation should call or stop by the sheriff's office.
Authorities have set up a hotline and email address for those who think they may have victimized by Taylor. The phone number to call is: 1-800-414-2826 and the email address to use is: firstname.lastname@example.org
In Taylor's 30 years at the school, he's been a physical education teacher, a baseball coach and a yearbook photographer, according to the sheriff. He is currently employed as a 7th grade language arts teacher at the school.
The school district released this statement late Thursday afternoon:
On the evening of Wednesday, October 6, 2010, the administration of Saluda County School District became aware of an investigation concerning a Saluda Middle School employee. The employee was placed on leave of absence beginning October 7, 2010.
The District is cooperating fully with local law enforcement. At this time the District does not have any further information regarding the specifics of the investigation. However, I can assure you that the District takes seriously its obligation to protect and provide a safe environment for all students. When information is presented to District personnel that any inappropriate behavior may be taking place, the administration immediately investigates and handles each situation as is proper, including notifying and cooperating with law enforcement.
We appreciate the community's support during this difficult time and will make further announcements as appropriate.
- Superintendent David M. Mathis
Deputies also seized several computers from Taylor's home. Booth said the computers are being analyzed by SLED agents.
Taylor is in custody at the Saluda County Detention Center.