Last week this news outlet reported on the story of Katherine Folger Pelfrey, a former schoolteacher in Pickens County, South Carolina who entered an Alford plea last week on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Pelfrey was hit with this charge – and a more serious sexual battery allegation – after she engaged in a sexual relationship with a then-16-year-old student in December 2021.
An Alford plea means a defendant maintains their innocence – but acknowledges the existence of sufficient evidence to convict them of the crime of which they stand accused.
Pelfrey’s case is not especially remarkable … although it did give me an opportunity to revisit a grey area in the Palmetto State’s criminal statutes pertaining to relationships between teachers and students who have attained the age of consent.
I won’t dive into that debate now except to say you can read our coverage of Pelfrey’s plea for more information …
Pelfrey’s relationship with the student was discovered – and reported – by her estranged husband Justin Pelfrey, a detective sergeant with the Oconee County sheriff’s office. A graduate of The Citadel – South Carolina’s military college – Justin Pelfrey has been with Oconee County for more than a decade. During that time, he has risen through the ranks and received multiple commendations for meritorious service.
In 2015, for example, Pelfrey and another officer were honored for their role in locating a missing Seneca, S.C. woman who had been involved in an automobile accident. Sheriff Mike Crenshaw praised both deputies for their “tremendous professionalism and commitment” in that case.
Justin Pelfrey is (understandably) quite upset about the situation in which he currently finds himself … and who could blame him? More specifically, he is upset – or enraged, to hear our sources tell it – over the terms of his estranged wife’s plea agreement.
Sources familiar with last week’s court hearing told this news outlet Justin Pelfrey was “shaking with rage” as S.C. circuit court judge Alex Kinlaw Jr. sentenced his wife to probation as opposed to prison. According to our sources, Pelfrey believed his wife should have spent several years behind bars on the charges she was facing.
I spoke this weekend with several Upstate law enforcement sources who are close to the erstwhile couple – all of whom told me they were concerned for the safety of everyone attached to this case. To a person, they told us they feared Justin Pelfrey’s “combustibility” over the situation is clouding his better judgment – and potentially putting his decorated law enforcement career in jeopardy.
“(He’s) gonna lose his job,” one of these sources told me.
In addition to the now-disposed criminal case, the Pelfreys’ also have a pending family court matter in Pickens County – one which is reportedly escalating in the wake of Katherine Pelfrey’s plea deal.
Hopefully tensions will deescalate in the days to come, but count on this news outlet to keep an eye on the situation in case they don’t …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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