Former Ballantyne teacher pleads guilty to indecent liberties, sentenced to prison

Starnes ( (Source: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office)
Starnes ( (Source: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A former Ballantyne-area teacher accused of forcible fondling and taking indecent liberties with children pleaded guilty on the charges and was sentenced to prison Tuesday.

Joseph Starnes was accused of fondling two children, ages 7 and 8, in March 2017. Several days later, police said two more victims, ages 6 and 9, came forward.

Detectives say the incident involving the 8-year-old happened at Primrose School of Ballantyne, where Starnes was employed. Police say the incident involving the 7-year-old was discovered during the investigation.

Investigators said the first student coming forward was a major part of the investigation.

"Victim number one was the catalyst for opening the investigation," CMPD Lt. Tom Barry said. "And as a result of the strength from that victim - that bravery - shared that information. We were able to conduct our investigation."

Starnes, who lives in Rock Hill, was interviewed, arrested and charged with six counts of indecent liberties with a child. After the two additional victims were identified, Starnes was charged with four counts of indecent liberties with a student by a teacher and two more counts of indecent liberties with a child.

Primrose School officials said Starnes was no longer employed with the school soon after the charges were filed.

On Tuesday, Starnes pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent liberties with a child and was sentenced to serve between 18 and 31 months in prison.

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