Former elementary SRO accused of taking part in sex trafficking conspiracy

Published: May. 7, 2021 at 4:22 PM EDT
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OCONEE COUNTY, S.C. (WYFF) - A former school resource officer at an Upstate elementary school has been charged in connection with sex trafficking, according to court documents.

In March, John Towery was fired as the SRO at Fair-Oak Elementary School and as an employee with the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Michael Crenshaw said.

At the time Crenshaw said Towery was fired after an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.

Towery had been with the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office since 2012 and previously worked for Edisto Beach Police Department, Crenshaw said at the time of the firing.

Towery is one of five people charged in the case.

WYFF News 4 first told you about the arrest of Gary Garland and Shannon Garland in April 2020.

The couple was arrested originally for criminal sexual conduct with a minor, but more warrants were obtained and served during this investigation, according to Sgt. J.T. Foster.

The Department of Social Services was involved in this case and removed the underage victims from the custody of the guardians, Foster said.

The couple was then named in a multi-count federal indictment that also included Johnnie Wells, Michael Skelton, and Duwone Allen, all of Anderson.

The indictment charged them with violations of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and production of child pornography, United States Attorney Peter M. McCoy Jr., announced.

The 10-count indictment alleged human trafficking and child pornography violations against the defendants beginning last year in South Carolina, McCoy said. According to the indictment, the defendants would advertise and transport at least two minors for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts, and the Garlands would produce visual depictions of the minors.

Towery was named in a new indictment filed in April that accuses him and the others mentioned in the original indictment of recruiting a minor to engage in sexual acts, transporting a minor to location for commercial sex acts, taking pictures of the minor involved in sexual activity, among other accusations.

The indictment said at least one or more of the conspirators engaged in activity with the minor victim.

Towery appeared in court on May 3, and a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.

Bond was set at $25,000 with home detention, GPS monitoring, and special conditions associated with charges.

WYFF News 4 reached out to Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw on Friday and he said the following: “It is disheartening to think any law enforcement officer would be involved in this type of behavior. This is why local, state, and federal agencies have investigators assigned to catch whoever engages in this illegal activity.”

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