Teacher accused of sex offense

Howard County woman charged with abusing boy, 15

February 17, 2007|By John-John Williams IV Sun reporter

What police say started as a series of inappropriate computer chats and text messages between a female Howard County teacher and a 15-year-old boy led to sexual encounters two years ago that came to light this week and resulted in criminal charges being filed against her.

Kirsten Ann Kinley, 27, became the county's third teacher since January to be charged with multiple sex offenses involving a minor. Police said they began to investigate Kinley on Monday after the boy divulged the encounters to his therapist, who was legally required to tell authorities.

Kinley, of the 7500 block of Murray Hill Road in Columbia, was arrested Thursday after turning herself in to police. She was charged with two counts of third-degree sex offense, two counts of fourth-degree sex offense and two counts of solicitation of a minor.

Kinley was later released on $75,000 bond Thursday and remains on paid administrative leave from her job as a special-education teacher at Marriotts Ridge High School in Marriottsville.

Kinley has worked as a special-education teacher in the top-performing Howard school system since 2002. At the time of the alleged incidents, she worked at Hammond Middle School in Laurel. She has never taught her accuser or worked in his school, according to the school system.

Police say the two were introduced through one of his friends and engaged in sexual acts on two occasions -- on New Year's Eve 2004 and once again in January 2005. The two met each time at Kinley's apartment, according to police. The boy was 15 years old when the encounters occurred, police said.

Last week, a Howard County grand jury indicted Alan Meade Beier, 52, a chemistry and physics teacher at River Hill High School, and Joseph Samuel Ellis, 25, a history and government teacher at Glenelg High School, on sexual misconduct charges in separate incidents involving students. Ellis and Beier, who were both arrested in January, remain on paid administrative leave.

According to court documents, Kinley's accuser told police that they chatted through computer instant messaging in early December 2004. Kinley asked him if "he was a virgin and then asked him to have sex with her," the documents said.

The boy also told police that Kinley warned him not to tell anyone about what they talked about or what they were going to do.

On Dec. 31, 2004, the boy told authorities, Kinley picked him up near his home and they went to her apartment, where they engaged in sexual intercourse. Afterward, the teen told police, he did not have contact with Kinley for several days "due to school work." They then met a second time at Kinley's apartment and had sex, according to court papers.

Police said they have recovered two e-mails -- with attached photos -- that Kinley sent to the boy on Dec. 23, 2004.

A search warrant of Kinley's home yielded a desktop computer, a Web cam and a laptop.

Technology is playing a greater role in sexual abuse cases, said T. Wayne Kirwan, spokesman for the Howard County state's attorney's office.

In the other cases, Ellis is accused of exchanging inappropriate material through e-mail and text messages and Beier is accused of using a digital camera to photograph a naked student.

"Modern technology has enabled the police and prosecutors to allow them to pursue an electronic trail," Kirwan said.

Kinley could not be reached for comment at her Columbia apartment and did not return several messages on her voicemail seeking comment.

B.C. Rowan, a downstairs neighbor who said she has watched Kinley's cat when she was out of town, said she couldn't believe the charges. "She's a wonderful girl," said Rowan, adding that Kinley would take her out to dinner in return for the cat watching duties. "She'd be the last person I would ever think would do anything like that."

Howard County Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said that there are more than 4,000 teachers in the system and that the recent arrests are isolated.

"This shows that we have a system that works," Cousin said. "When we have people that come forward, these charges are investigated."

Cousin said there are safeguards in place -- criminal background checks of job applicants and mandatory annual training of all teachers warning against inappropriate behavior with students -- to protect students.

At Marriotts Ridge High School, where Kinley has worked since it opened in 2005, students and parents were informed yesterday afternoon of Kinley's arrest through an e-mail from Principal Patrick J. Saunderson.

Kinley was the adviser to the sophomore class and to Poms, a competitive dance group that performs during football and basketball halftime shows.

Courtney Watson, a Howard County Council member whose daughter is a member of Kinley's dance team, said she was shocked and disappointed by the allegations. "She volunteered to coach the team when no one else would," said Watson, who is also a former school board chairman.

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