Randolph County teacher arrested
ELKINS — A Randolph Technical Center teacher has been arrested and is accused of having inappropriate relationships with several of his students.
Albert Robert Chewning, 37, of Elkins, is charged with one felony count of soliciting a minor via computer and two felony counts of distribution and display to a minor of obscene matter. He is incarcerated at Tygart Valley Regional Jail on a $100,000 cash-only bond, set by Randolph County Magistrate Rob Elbon.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Randolph County Magistrate Court, on June 6, Elkins Police Department Patrolman A.M. Wyshyvanuk received a walk-in complaint from a 17-year-old who said one of her teachers attempted to kiss her in a tool closet on the last day of school.
Through a series of interviews, jointly conducted by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Institutional Investigation Unit and the Randolph-Tucker Child Advocacy Center, the alleged victim told authorities that Chewning, who was employed as the school’s shop teacher, had attempted to initiate a relationship several weeks before using Snapchat, the complaint states.
She added the Snapchat handle used by Chewning was “bigdaddy331998,” police said.
She also said she had been required to come to the school to take a final exam on June 2. When she arrived for the exam, she was told her exams would be in three parts – the first part was showing up and the second was that she “remove her underwear in the bathroom” and give them to Chewning, according to the complaint.
After she refused to perform the second part, she did not find out what the third part was. At that time, she said Chewning asked her to help him put tools away in the closet. While doing that, he shut the door, pulled her close and tried to kiss her but she pulled away and left the classroom, the complaint states.
Wyshyvanuk spoke to Randolph Technical Center administrator John Daniels, who said the alleged victim had a grade of 100 percent for a final exam, but he was unable to find a physical copy of the exam. He also told police the alleged victim should not have been required to take a final exam due to her good attendance records in Chewning’s class, court documents state.
Wyshyvanuk submitted a search warrant to Snap Inc. on June 9. The data received as a result of the warrant indicated the account “bigdaddy331998” was associated with the email address “firstname.lastname@example.org,” police said.
The alleged victim referred investigators to other potential victims. A second alleged victim, a 17-year-old girl, was interviewed and provided a signed written statement, which said Chewning had grabbed her buttocks three or four times and sent her a Snapchat picture of his genitalia during the last month of school, the complaint states.
She added she knew it was Chewning based on previous conversations she’d had with him. “One day he called me into his ‘classroom’ after the bell. Everybody was gone already and said ive (sic) received your snapchat (sic) and if you ever have any questions contact me,” she said, according to the complaint.
The second alleged victim also said another student had told her she had met with Chewning outside of school and the two had sex. She added the first alleged victim had also told her about the incident in which Chewning allegedly asked her for her underwear, the report states.
An interview was then conducted with the third alleged victim — the girl who allegedly met with Chewning outside of school and had sexual intercourse — who is now 19 years old.
Wyshyvanuk notes in the report that the third alleged victim is significant because her birthday is March 3, 1998, which corresponds to the number in Chewning’s Snapchat handle, “bigdaddy331998.”
Several Snapchat messages between Chewning and the third alleged victim indicate the two were in “a relationship of some kind,” police said.
Wyshyvanuk again spoke with Daniels, who said he had witnessed Chewning and the third alleged victim in the mill and cabinet shop alone during Chewning’s lunch break. Daniels added he did not see any physical contact but “felt it was inappropriate but not to a disciplinary action,” according to Daniels’ statement to police.
Daniels said he spoke with Chewning and told him it was “not a good idea” to have any students in the classroom or shop during lunch and did not believe it ever happened again, court documents state.
A Snapchat from Chewning to the third alleged victim, on March 12, contained directions believed to be to the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown. There was also an image that displayed a screenshot of an e-mail from Schulter Innovation regarding a workshop at the same location March 15 and 16, according to the complaint.
Daniels said he believed Chewning had taken professional leave to go to the event but it was not funded by the school, the complaint states.
On June 15, along with a DHHR investigator, Wyshyvanuk interviewed the third alleged victim. She indicated there was no form of relationship, other than that typical of a student and her teacher, between her and Chewning either while she was a student or afterward, the complaint states.
Other Snapchat messages from Chewning to the alleged victim included “I know things are stressful and difficult at times but I truly believe in my heart that we can make it. I love you (alleged victim’s name)? Happy Valentine’s Day my Queen???” and “I can’t even stand myself right now. I love you (alleged victim’s name) and it’s my fault it’s like this. I can’t keep letting you slip through my fingers it seems like every day that passes that I don’t take what I want. I’m loosing (sic) you and I don’t want that. I find myself giving in because I feel guilty for being selfish and I don’t want my kids to suffer,” according to the complaint.
Wyshyvanuk interviewed a fourth alleged victim — who is now 18 years old –who said she had been contacted via Snapchat by someone using an account “that was ‘bigdaddy,’ followed by numbers, which she thought was 1998,” court documents state.
She added she received an “obscene” photograph from the user but deleted it, the complaint states.
If convicted on the soliciting charge, Chewning could be sentenced to not less than two nor more than 10 years in the state penitentiary, fined not more than $5,000, or both.
Chewning could be sentenced to not more than five years in the state penitentiary, fined not more than $25,000, or both, on each of the two distribution or display to a minor of obscene matter charges.
Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Gabriel J. Devono addressed the allegations Wednesday afternoon in an email statement to The Inter-Mountain.
“Administration is aware of the recent arrest of a classroom teacher and the serious allegations asserted against the employee,” Devono wrote. “Personnel laws that govern school employees prevent the school system from addressing the status of the employee other than to state that the employee has not been on school grounds this school year. To respond further could compromise the employee’s due process rights in the event adverse action is taken.
“We trust the press and public understand our limitations. Adverse employment action, if any, requires among other things, proper written notice to the employee and the opportunity for a hearing before the board of education considers any recommendation of the superintendent, all taking place at a lawfully noticed public meeting.
“Please know that the school system takes these allegations seriously, always making every effort to base decisions on the best interest of our students. At this stage, administration will continue to cooperate with law enforcement and will continue to monitor the legal proceedings, all while complying with the legal requirements that must be afforded to employees,” he continued. “We appreciate the cooperative working relationship with local law enforcement, and their efforts in protecting our students and staff. The school system will not take any action that could or would jeopardize or interfere with law enforcements process.”