Former Carolina Friends School teacher committed suicide, school reports
Carolina Friends School reported Monday that a former teacher who was accused of inappropriately touching a student in 1976 has committed suicide.
Charles William “Bill” Butcher was a middle school teacher at the private Quaker school in Durham from 1973 to 1978. The school reported that Butcher took his own life on Thursday.
Current Principal Mike Hanas said he learned of Butcher’s suicide Sunday from Butcher’s niece. He said she had not known about the school’s investigation and expressed remorse.
“We know that the effects of child sexual abuse are far-reaching for all involved,” Hanas said in a statement. “Also, we are mindful of Bill's expression of deep remorse and desire to contribute to healing. We are sorry for the loss of opportunity for our community and for him to pursue some measure of restorative justice. We will continue to hold in the light Bill’s family and friends and all those affected by the terrible events of 40 years ago.”
Butcher’s reported suicide occurred a day after school officials publicly acknowledged that four students had accused former school Principal Harold Jernigan of inappropriately touching four students who were in elementary and middle school between 1969 and 1975 and that another student had accused Butcher of inappropriate touching in 1976.
Hanas said in a previous interview with The Herald-Sun that Butcher confessed to the charge. He also said Butcher had agreed to participate in the inquiry launched by the school with the help of experts on child abuse and sexual misconduct and volunteered to work toward reconciliation with his alleged victim.
The inquiry was led by attorneys Gina Smith and Leslie Gomez, both with the Philadelphia-based firm of Pepper Hamilton. Smith was hired by UNC Chapel Hill last year to help the university manage its sexual assault crisis.
The information gathered by the school was shared with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Officials there said they believe the statute of limitations may preclude criminal prosecution because the allegations would only have amounted to a misdemeanor during the period they occurred.
There is no statute of limitations for felony offenses in North Carolina.
Hanas said the charges have been on the school’s radar since about 2003, but became pervasive in 2012, prompting the school to launch its investigation.
He said the five alums at the center of the allegations wanted to ensure that Carolina Friends is taking steps to ensure that such abuse never occurs again.
Hanas said school officials haven’t been able to reach Jernigan.