The sheriff’s deputy wasn’t working the morning of April 12 as he sped down Milton Road.
He was off-duty and cruising in his Chevy with a 15-year-old girl beside him in the passenger seat.
Now, former Durham County deputy Christopher L. Kelly, 40, is being held on $2.5 million bail in Raleigh in the custody of the N.C. Department of Corrections.
Kelly’s attorney, Daniel Meier, said, his client is being kept separate from the general jail population for his safety.
Kelly was arrested Monday at 102 Sycamore Street in Cary. He worked at Hillside and Northern high schools as a school resource officer where investigators have said he acted as a “mentor” to the girl before their relationship turned sexual.
Kelly is charged with statutory sex offense with a child, first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, indecent liberties with a child, sex acts with a student and second-degree kidnapping.
Kelly was hired as deputy in August, 2013. He was placed on administrative leave April 21 and his employment with agency was terminated April 28.
Conducting stationary radar speed enforcement, fellow Durham sheriff deputies clocked Kelly driving too fast in his white Impala.
In warrants, deputies said the car seemed to speed up, making turns in an “evasive” manner.
Kelly eventually pulled over and the deputies saw someone get out of the car. As the deputies approached, they saw the girl squatting low to the ground near the front of the car.
Kelly exited the car and the deputies recognized him. They told him stop, but Kelly refused to comply with directives to remain in his vehicle, the warrants say.
Kelly got off with a verbal warning for speeding.
The deputies searched for the girl. They didn’t see her until Kelly pulled away, with her sitting in the passenger seat.
An opened investigation
Detective R. J. Christie, with the Sheriff’s Office, was assigned to investigate Kelly for any criminal activity related to his relations with the girl.
Christie found Kelly had begun a mentoring relationship with a now 15-year-old female and her “best” friend when he worked as an off-duty officer at Carrington Middle School during the 2014-15 school year.
The two girls “have been described as having abusive family” histories, Christie wrote in the warrant, and the 15-year-old who had been seen in the car was described as “being a cutter” with social anxieties.
The girl transitioned from middle school to Northern High School at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. Kelly transitioned too and began regularly working at Northern High School as an off-duty officer, the warrants say.
He became involved in school activities and volunteered as an assistant coach for the cheerleading squad.
Kelly would visit the girl while working and when he wasn’t working, Christie wrote.
Witnesses spoke of acts “not appearing to be sexual in nature, but also not ‘the norm,’” such as, the girl standing between Kelly’s legs as he sat on a railing as he monitored the cafeteria, Christie wrote
Kelly sent a text message to the other girl he was mentoring, the warrants said.
“Don’t tell adults about our relationship,” he wrote. “They wouldn’t understand.”
Detectives discovered explicit photos on Kelly’s cellphone of a video “chat session” with the girl, in which she is naked and exposing her breasts and genitals. A time stamp revealed she was 15 at the time.
One picture seemingly shows a hickie, suggesting a physical relationship, the warrants said.
In an interview with Christie, the girl’s father said he’d found texts and photos on his daughter’s phone.
In one text, Kelly asked why the girl couldn’t refer to him as her “bf,” (boyfriend) and in another expressed his desire to sleep with her.
Advice for parents
Teenagers are especially vulnerable to abusers, says Rachel Valentine, a community education director at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center.
The teenage years are a time when children experience shifting relationships with their parents and abusers often attempt to exploit vulnerabilities.
“Let your teens know that they can talk to you if they have questions about whether something is OK or not when it comes to relationships,” Valentine said. “Encourage your own kids to be active bystanders and to speak up about their concerns about friends’ relationships,” Valentine said.
“And when cases like this do become public, be very clear with your own child that it was the adult who was at fault in this situation, not the child,” she said.
“Children and teens need to know that their parents can be trusted to believe and support them,” she emphasised.
Staff writer Colin Warren-Hicks