Former school employee sentenced in 1987 sex offense case - | WBTV Charlotte

Former school employee sentenced in 1987 sex offense case


A former school employee was convicted of taking indecent liberties with a student more than 25 years ago, according to a release from the District Attorney's Office.

The offense occurred in 1987, when 56-year-old Darlene Fenners Melton was an employee of Hickory City Schools and involved a male victim under the age of 16, officials said.

The crimes were reported earlier this year, and an investigation was conducted.

The relationship, according to prosecutors in court, was with a student at the Hickory Alternative School where she taught. That student was 15 years old at the time. School officials confronted her about the relationship and her attorney says she admitted that it was going on and agreed to resign.

Prosecutors say the relationship continued for some time. It ended while the victim was still a teenager but was "of age" said prosecutors. Melton, we're told, was also married at the time and when she had a child, the teenager thought it was his. 

After the two stopped seeing each other and several years passed, Melton was able to get a teaching position in the Forsyth County School System. Earlier this year, the victim came forward and charges were filed against Melton.

She resigned from Forsyth and turned her teaching certificate in. That victim spoke out in court Wednesday and told the court he has been undergoing counseling since the relationship ended. He asked that as part of the sentence, Melton pay for continued counseling for him. The judge ruled that was a civil matter and was beyond the statute of limitations and therefore no money was awarded to the victim.

Melton was sentenced under guidelines that were in effect in 1987, when the crime occurred. Judge Timothy Kincaid said the sentencing parameters were very different then than now. 

Current Hickory School System officials say they cannot find any record of an investigation but confirmed that Melton resigned in February 1988.  Had a similar situation been reported today, officials say an investigation would have been launched and police informed as well.  School system teachers and administrators are reminded every year that any activity between a teacher and student must be reported.

Melton did not comment as she left the courtroom.

In Catawba County Criminal Superior Court Wednesday, Melton was convicted of felony indecent liberties with a child.

She was sentenced to no less than three years and no more than ten years in the North Carolina Division of Adult Correction. That sentence, however, was suspended based on an agreement that she be placed on 36 months of supervised probation and to register with the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry for 30 years.

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