Decades-old statutory rape charge dropped against former Orange County band teacher

Orange County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A statutory rape charge against a former Orange County band teacher that dates back to 1986 has been dropped, according to Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.

“Prosecutors were made aware that the statutory provision under which he was charged had not been enacted at the time of the offense,” Freeman said Friday via email.

“Additional charges consistent with criminal laws in existence at the time of this will be pursued,” Freeman added.

William Thomas Pendergrass III, 60, of Raleigh, was arrested Oct. 4 on charges of indecent liberties with a child and statutory rape/sex offense of child 15 or younger.

The charges, filed by Cary police, date back to July 14, 1986, through July 13, 1987, and involve a victim who was 15 at the time, arrest records show.

Pendergrass has been placed on administrative leave from the Orange County School System while the district investigates.

“The charges do not involve the Orange County Schools or our students, but are based on alleged conduct from years ago outside of the Orange County Schools,” a spokeswoman for the district said following the Oct. 4 arrest.

Pendergrass began working for Orange County Schools on Aug. 19. He was listed on the Gravelly Middle School website as its band teacher.

Ravenscroft in Raleigh said Pendergrass was fired from the school in April after it received a written complaint.

“To date, Ravenscroft has not received any reports of sexual misconduct that occurred during his employment at Ravenscroft,” a spokeswoman for Ravenscroft said. “We worked cooperatively with law enforcement, and at the same time, took steps to ensure the safety of our current students by removing this individual’s access to our campus and our students.”

Ravenscroft has asked anyone with relevant information concerning Pendergrass to contact law enforcement.

“This news has shocked and saddened our community. We are working with child protection professionals to provide our community with support and care during this time,” the school’s spokeswoman said.

Sources say before Ravenscroft, Pendergrass taught in Virginia Beach.

One of his former students in Virginia didn’t want to be identified but told CBS 17, “I am not very surprised but saddened. He was somewhat of a flirt. I remember him bringing a girl around a lot (she was my age). I thought it was weird at the time.”

Pendergrass turned himself in after he was contacted by authorities. There’s no statute of limitations for felonies.

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