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Crime & Courts

Upstate Student-Teacher Sex Scandal: Tables Continue To Turn

New revelations contained in divorce decree …

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Back in the spring, our media outlet published several stories related to a student-teacher sex scandal in the South Carolina Upstate. As this story unfolded, layers emerged – painting purported protagonists and antagonists in ever-shifting lights.

As I noted at the time, this story’s evolution provided an important reminder that the subjects we cover don’t always stay as they seem on the surface – and the facts surrounding them don’t always remain neatly encapsulated, with good and evil clearly defined and delineated.

“More often than not … narratives evolve,” I wrote back in April. “Or at the very least they obtain depth … allowing those of us following them to gain much-needed perspective as we focus our inquiries.”

Those narratives are continuing to evolve as the family court component of this widely followed story comes into focus …

To recap: Thirty-five-year-old Katherine Pelfrey of Clemson, S.C. entered an Alford plea in late March on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. That charge tied to a sexual relationship she had with a then-16-year-old student in December 2021.

In an Alford plea, defendants maintains their innocence – but acknowledge the existence of sufficient evidence to convict them of the crime of which they stand accused. Prior to her plea, Pelfrey had been charged with a more serious sexual battery – but this charge was dropped by prosecutors.

Why did they drop it?

(Click to View)

Katherine Folger Pelfrey (Facebook)

The battery charge in this case – and many others like it – is linked to a grey area in the Palmetto State’s criminal statutes. Specifically, it is related to sexual acts between teachers and students who have attained the age of consent – a.k.a. sixteen years. Essentially, this law criminalizes consensual sexual activity between consenting adults in certain situations – but not others.

I have consistently argued this law is a violation of the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment – especially in cases involving teachers who do not have direct supervisory authority over students (which Pelfrey did not have over the student in this case).

Am I saying teachers who have sex with students should be allowed to keep their jobs? Absolutely not. Such romantic entanglements are completely inappropriate, and teachers who engage in them deserve to be fired (whether the student is directly under their tutelage or not).

But do they deserve to face criminal charges if the same exact conduct in virtually any other situation is completely legal? I don’t believe so. Nor, it would appear, did the prosectors who handled Pelfrey’s case.

The decision to drop the battery charge against Pelfrey understandably enraged her ex-husband, Justin Pelfrey, a decorated detective sergeant with the Oconee County sheriff’s office. As one might expect, Justin Pelfrey has been a hot mess since discovering his wife’s conduct – and his coping skills appear to have left much to be desired.

Sources familiar with Katherine Pelfrey’s plea back in March hearing told this news outlet Justin Pelfrey was “shaking with rage” as circuit court judge Alex Kinlaw Jr. sentenced her 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.

Law enforcement sources concerned with Pelfrey’s alleged “combustibility” following the plea hearing reached out to us expressing fear for “the safety of everyone involved in this case.”

Those fears would appear to be well-founded …

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In addition to allegedly reporting his ex-wife’s actions to her employer, Justin Pelfrey has been accused of leaking news of her arrest to the media – and engaging in a sustained campaign of harassment against her. Since this story broke, multiple letters have been sent to Katherine Pelfrey and her neighbors – including one threatening missive in which the unknown author assumed the identity of James Fairbanks, a Nebraska man who murdered a convicted sex offender in 2020.

“Your time will come and you will be punished for what you have done to that child,” the author told Katherine Pelfrey. “You should and will suffer for the hell you have created.”

“I have not forgot about you and have been keeping a very close eye on you,” the author continued. “That feeling you get when the hair stands up on the back of your neck should tell you that I am close.”

The letter concluded with images of Pelfrey’s home – along with a picture of her and mother during a recent walk in their neighborhood. As if to drive home the fear, in the weeks that followed the receipt of these letters Pelfrey’s dogs were poisoned.

No arrests have been made in connection with these harassing messages – or the alleged poisoning of Pelfrey’s dogs.

On the civil side of the equation, the Pelfreys’ marriage is now officially over. Two weeks ago, S.C. family court judge Karen S. Roper issued a divorce decree in this case. As expected, the decree (.pdf) was not kind to Katherine Pelfrey, concluding she “abused her authority as a teacher and took advantage of a vulnerable juvenile.” It further accused her of attempting to deflect and minimize her conduct, slamming her for a “lack of insight and “poor judgment.”

Of interest, though? Roper was equally harsh on Justin Pelfrey, who is facing some serious allegations that could impact his future as a law enforcement officer.

Specifically, Roper’s decree noted that Justin Pelfrey “abused his authority when he used his position in law enforcement to confiscate marijuana from a juvenile and brought it home for (his wife) to use.”

Evidence of this alleged confiscation – which would likely amount to misconduct in office if it were criminally proven – was purportedly presented to judge Roper during the family court hearing. This media outlet has also spoken with multiple sources who have independently corroborated the marijuana allegation against Justin Pelfrey.

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RELATED | STUDENT-TEACHER SEX CASE: TROUBLING THREATS

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This media outlet has already encouraged the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to “take a leadership role in this investigation,” citing allegations that Pelfrey used taxpayer resources as he sought to hold his ex-wife accountable for her actions with the 16-year-old student.

I believe SLED should look into this marijuana matter involving Pelfrey as well.

While Justin Pelfrey has denied turning in his former wife – or leaking news of her arrest to the media – Roper noted Katherine Pelfrey “presented an expert witness in computer forensics to support her contention that (her husband) alerted her employer and the media as to her conduct.”

She also indicated in her decree that she didn’t need the expert testimony to convince her of the fact Justin Pelfrey “probably did” send the messages exposing his wife’s arrest to the media.

“Mr. Pelfrey’s continued denials do not seem credible,” she noted, which would seem to indicate she believed he lied under oath repeatedly in the family court hearing – another potential problem for the law enforcement officer.

Roper also echoed the concerns expressed by our law enforcement sources, saying she was “concerned that if Mr. Pelfrey’s anger toward Mrs. Pelfrey continues unabated, it will ultimately impact the children.”

Again, far be it from me to judge a spouse’s righteous anger upon discovering their wife or husband in a situation such as this one. Justin Pelfrey clearly has every right to be “combustible,” and Katherine Pelfrey should certainly be forced to deal with the consequences of her actions – as it seems she is. But in our society we hold (or at least we ought to hold) law enforcement officers to a higher standard. So while Justin Pelfrey is entitled to his anger – he is not entitled to threaten and harass his ex-wife, if that is indeed what is happening. And under no circumstances is he entitled to use government resources to effectuate that harassment, again, if that is indeed what is happening.

Furthermore, if he committed misconduct in office or lied on the stand in connection with this case then he should be held accountable for those actions.

Count on this media outlet to keep our readers in the loop in the event there are any new developments in this case – including the initiation of any investigations into Justin Pelfrey.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

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 and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.

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6 comments

Avatar photo
VERITAS Top fan December 29, 2023 at 6:09 pm

Will, I suggest you contact several psychologists/psychiatrists to explain the difference between sexual relations between a 16- or 17-year-old student with a teacher/tutor, and a 16- or 17-year-old with an adult 21+ years of age outside any school system. Every healthy parent/guardian will tell you there’s a problem with the logic presented in the article. The age of “consent” should be changed to 18 in every state. Katherine Pelfrey is a predator, as is anyone 21+ having sex with a 16- or 17- year- old child. Add “teacher” status and it is magnified to an atrocity.

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Get Over It December 30, 2023 at 10:15 am

Oh horse hockey. Where do people get the ridiculous notions that an arbitrary age limit, created by a bunch of suits in a legislative body that likely have done the same or much worse in their lives, should be set in stone to control the lives and loves of everyone or else some of those lives will be forever ruined by such dictates?
This is the type of control freakism that legislators, rape crisis industry workers, and prosecutors, just love to have over others’ lives.

“But the teacher had control over him”, they love to bleat. Absent force or coercion by the teacher, any normal boy that age will feel empowered and grateful that an attractive female teacher shared her charms with him.

Folks is right. In cases such as these, firing the teacher is the only punishment that truly fits the “crime”.

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J doe December 29, 2023 at 10:37 pm

Why are you publishing the last page of this document, which includes full names names and dates of birth of the minor children, who are the true victims here. You have to redact that.

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Cautious December 30, 2023 at 11:52 am

You should have posted a pic of Justin Pelfrey. That way, if any of us find ourselves in close proximity to him in the grocery store, the mall, gassing up at the convenience store, we can know it and put distance between us and him in case he goes active shooter with all that rage inside him.

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J Monday Top fan December 31, 2023 at 10:05 am

Her actions are reprehensible & have rightfully been punished. She knew what she was doing was wrong, regardless is what “the age of consent” is in the state of S.C. However, it always raises a red flag when the husband or significant other in a case is a law enforcement officer. His behavior is also disgusting. I hope that if his actions are in any way illegal that they will be exposed & dealt with as well.

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Anonymous June 30, 2024 at 1:49 am

I heard she gave that kid and STD and her dad was fired from Southern Wesleyan University for a relationship with a student.

Reply

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