An eastern Tennessee woman is accused of having sex with at least nine underage high school students, authorities said Tuesday.
Melissa Ann Blair, 38, of Englewood, was indicted by the McMinn County Grand Jury on 18 counts of aggravated statutory rape, four counts of human trafficking by patronizing prostitution and one count of solicitation of a minor, the Daily Post Athenian reported.
According to the McMinn County Sheriff’s Department, Blair is accused of trading items for sex with the underage male students at McMinn Central High School from spring 2020 through late 2021, WBIR-TV reported.
McMinn County woman indicted child rape charges posts bail https://t.co/fhghUpDzet— WATE 6 On Your Side (@6News) February 16, 2022
County school officials said that Blair was not employed by the school, but was a parent and was involved in booster clubs, the television station reported.
McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy said during a news conference on Tuesday that Blair’s alleged encounters with the students began via communication through social media, WATE-TV reported.
Officials said seven of the nine victims are juveniles, while two are now legal adults. According to the grand jury indictment, one of the victims was reported to have been as young as 14 years old when the encounters began, WBIR reported. The other victims were between 15 to 17 years old, and Guy said two of the victims have since turned 18.
Press conference is underway.— Eric Benninghoff News (@EricBenninghoff) February 15, 2022
Here’s the press release from Sheriff Joe Guy. pic.twitter.com/KJyabl8ut9
McMinn County Director of Schools Lee Parkison told reporters that the investigation began after an anonymous letter was left in his office, according to the television station.
“Without them, this could still be going on,” Parkison said.
Guy told reporters that the sheriff’s department received a referral from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services on Dec. 9, 2021, indicating that Blair had been having sexual encounters with the students. Deputies went to Blair’s home on Dec. 15 and spoke with her, and a subsequent search warrant was issued, according to the Daily Post Athenian.
The sheriff said a parent is accused of exchanging items for sex with at least 9 underage male students at McMinn County High School as far back as spring 2020. Sheriff Guy said they believe other victims are out there and are asking them to come forward. https://t.co/oNEcgx1Gah— WBIR Channel 10 (@wbir) February 15, 2022
“The search warrant revealed additional evidence and our investigation grew larger as more parents and victims contacted us,” Guy told reporters. “We were finally able to present the case to the grand jury on Feb. 15, upon which the indictments were issued.
“This type of case is difficult and shocking even to seasoned detectives and I want to commend our staff for the many hours of identifying, locating and interviewing victims and their families, collecting physical and electronic evidence, as well as the many days of putting together the search warrant and subsequent case file,” Guy added. “But most importantly, we want to offer support and resources to the victims and their parents as we move forward.”
Blair surrendered to authorities after the indictments were handed down, Daily Post Athenian reported. Bail was set at $100,000 and Guy told WTVC-TV that Blair posted Tuesday night.
Blair is due in court Feb. 28, the television station reported.
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