For­mer coach, in­struc­tional as­sis­tant charged with as­sault, pro­duc­ing child porn

Also be­lieved to be HIV pos­i­tive; seven mid­dle school vic­tims in­den­ti­fied

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

A for­mer mid­dle school in­struc­tional as­sis­tant whom po­lice say is HIV pos­i­tive has been ar­rested for al­legedly as­sault­ing mid­dle school stu­dents and pro­duc­ing child pornog­ra­phy, some of it in the class­room.

“In an or­ga­ni­za­tion that is all about chil­dren, th­ese al­le­ga­tions are hor­ri­fy­ing,” Charles County Public Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence Mon­day af­ter­noon. “To our par­ents and our com­mu­nity who put their faith and trust in us to safe­guard their chil­dren, I apol­o­gize on be­half of Charles County Public Schools.”

Car­los Dean­gelo Bell, 30, of Wal­dorf was ar­rested Fri­day at his home and charged with three counts in con­nec­tion with pro­duc­ing child pornog­ra­phy and two counts of sec­ond-de­gree as­sault of a mi­nor.

Bell is cur­rently be­ing held with­out bond at the Charles County De­ten­tion Cen­ter in La Plata, said Charles County Sher­iff Troy Berry (D).

Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, CCSO re­leased ad­di­tional de­tails about Bell’s back­ground. In the fall of 2008, Bell worked as a fa­cil­ity at­ten­dant with the Charles County De­part­ment of Com­mu­nity Ser­vices, and in the fall of 2015, Bell worked for Al­phaBest, a Charles County gov­ern­ment con­trac­tor, that pro­vided be­fore and af­ter care at J.P. Ryon and Wil­liam B. Wade el­e­men­tary schools.

In ad­di­tion, the sher­iff’s of­fice said Bell vol­un­teered as an as­sis­tant coach for the Comets, a youth track club whose athletes range from 15 to 18 years old, and may have served as coach or as­sis­tant coach for a va­ri­ety of sports through­out the re­gion.

Ad­di­tional charges are forth­com­ing, and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing, Berry said.

“The Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice is work­ing with the state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice and Charles County Public Schools to dig deeper into Bell’s back­ground to de­ter­mine if there were any other vic­tims in our com­mu­nity,” Berry said.

The in­ci­dents are al­leged to have oc­curred in Fe­bru­ary and March 2016.

Po­lice say Bell, an in­struc­tional as­sis­tant, sex­u­ally as­saulted seven iden­ti­fied male stu­dents, and in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve there are more vic­tims who have not yet been iden­ti­fied. They are ask­ing any­one with in­for­ma­tion to come for­ward.

Bell was, un­til re­cently, an in­struc­tional as­sis­tant at Ben­jamin Stod­dert Mid­dle School in Wal­dorf. He also served as a for­mer track coach at Mau­rice J. McDonough and La Plata high schools, Hill said.

Bell be­gan his ca­reer in Charles County Public Schools at J.P. Ryon Mid­dle School in 2014 be­fore trans­fer­ring to Stod­dert in March 2015, Hill said.

Bell passed an ex­ten­sive back­ground check re­quired of all em­ploy­ees, Hill said. Tony Cov­ing­ton, state’s at­tor­ney for Charles County, said that it did not ap­pear Bell had a crim­i­nal record.

“We are not aware of him hav­ing any crim­i­nal his­tory at all,” Cov­ing­ton said.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion opened in Novem­ber 2016 when a La Plata High School par­ent re­ported sex­u­ally in­ap­pro­pri­ate text mes­sages sent to her child.

“De­tec­tives were able to track the text mes­sages back to Mr. Bell,” Berry said. “A search of Bell’s work com­puter did not re­veal any il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity and noth­ing sus­pi­cious was noted.”

Hill said Bell was barred from coach­ing and all school prop­er­ties in De­cem­ber while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ued.

“We re­moved Mr. Bell from his du­ties as an em­ployee and we directed him to have no con­tact with stu­dents or stu­dent athletes,” Hill said.

Cov­ing­ton said that, at that time, there was no ev­i­dence of the crimes with which he has now been charged.

“In De­cem­ber, the only thing that was on the ta­ble, if you will, was an in­ap­pro­pri­ate text mes­sage, and it does not ap­pear that the young man that was tar­geted at fell vic­tim to sex­ual as­sault him­self,” Cov­ing­ton said.

On June 27, Berry said the Mary­land State Po­lice Crime Lab re­ported re­triev­ing im­ages and videos from Bell’s elec­tronic de­vices of Bell sex­u­ally as­sault­ing chil­dren in a Stod­dert class­room and at his home, at which point au­thor­i­ties sought an in­dict­ment.

“It is dev­as­tat­ing to us that some­thing like this could hap­pen in a class­room, in a school build­ing where adults are charged with tak­ing care of chil­dren,” Hill said. “I can as­sure you, there will be very per­sis­tent fol­low-up for us to de­ter­mine ex­actly what hap­pened and how it was al­lowed to hap­pen.”

Hill said that as an in­struc­tional as­sis­tant, Bell worked with both spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion and gen­eral ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents.

Hill said Bell’s al­leged ac­tions are hor­ri­fy­ing, but should not re­flect on the other 3,500 teach­ers and staff mem­bers of the school sys­tem, and said the school sys­tem would in­crease ef­forts to im­prove safety in schools.

“Stu­dent safety is job one, and clearly we have work to do to en­sure that this will never hap­pen again,” Hill said.

Hill said sup­port and coun­sel­ing will be pro­vided for chil­dren who have been vic­tim­ized.

Fol­low­ing Bell’s ar­rest, he al­legedly con­fessed to hav­ing con­tracted the Hu­man Im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency Virus, or HIV, and Berry said ev­i­dence was re­cov­ered to con­firm that in­for­ma­tion. Cov­ing­ton said that at this time, two of Bell’s al­leged vic­tims have been tested for HIV, but cur­rently no one has tested pos­i­tive.

Dianna Ab­ney, health of­fi­cer for the Charles County De­part­ment of Health, said test re­sults can take from two weeks up to six months.

Berry said there are ad­di­tional vic­tims who have not been iden­ti­fied, and urged par­ents to speak with chil­dren who may have had con­tact with Bell. A spe­cial hot­line, 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800225-5324), has been set up for this case.

CHARLES COUTY SHER­IFF’S OF­FICE

Car­los Dean­gelo Bell, 30, of Wal­dorf.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Charles County Health Of­fi­cer Dianna Ab­ney, State’s At­tor­ney Tony Cov­ing­ton, Charles County Sher­iff Troy Berry and Charles County Public School Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill held a press con­fer­ence in La Plata Mon­day af­ter­noon to an­nounce the ar­rest of Car­los Dean­gelo Bell on a num­ber of child as­sault and child pornog­ra­phy charges.

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