Second alleged victim details relationship with ex-New Hanover band teacher




  • In US
  • 2022-05-14 06:03:32Z
  • By Star News
New Hanover County Schools Administration building
New Hanover County Schools Administration building  

A second alleged victim of former New Hanover County Schools teacher Peter Frank took the stand Friday to detail the evolution of her relationship with the middle school band teacher, which started when she was in eighth grade.

During her first two years at Roland-Grise Middle School, the alleged victim said she crossed paths with Frank but didn't know him well. She wasn't in band but would sometimes see him in the band room, which became a "congregating place" before school, she said, as her friends dropped off their instruments each morning.

She said things became more serious during the fall of her eighth grade year in 2003 when she started instant messaging with Frank online. On Nov. 8, 2003, she called Frank and they spoke over the phone for the first time.

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The witness, who was 14 at the time, said she could talk with Frank about a traumatic event in her life and her own emotions, which were difficult for other students her age to understand.

At the time, Frank had told her he was 27, but he was really 30.

"Talking to someone who was older felt very helpful at the time," she said.

Frank, now 49, is accused of committing various sex crimes involving children and students over two decades. His alleged victims were students at Roland-Grise between 1999 and 2019.

He was arrested in January 2020, charged with 29 crimes and fired from the school shortly after. Friday concluded the first week of Frank's trial, which is being held in Bladen County.

Frank faces 17 charges including indecent liberties with a child, indecent liberties with a student, first-degree sexual offense, sexual activity with a child, sexual activity with a student, and statutory sex offense with a person who is 13, 14 or 15.

The StarNews typically does not name victims of alleged sexual assault.

On Friday, the witness said she talked with Frank on a daily basis throughout the 2003-2004 school year via instant messaging. She often called Frank on his cell phone from her home landline and sometimes delivered typed letters to him during the school day or sent them to his private email address.

They talked about music, her family life, other kids at school, shared interests and their relationship, she said.

The Bladen County Courthouse is pictured on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
The Bladen County Courthouse is pictured on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.  

"I may only be 14, but I feel like you and I are in the same point of life," she wrote in one letter addressed to him. "When I'm with you, I feel like my life has meaning."

At the request of state prosecutors, the alleged victim read excerpts of a typed letter she used to profess her love for Frank, an eighth-grade English essay dedicated to him and a handwritten message he had scrawled in her middle school yearbook.

The alleged victim said she spent time with Frank during a school-sanctioned trip to New York that summer. She described an incident that she interpreted as an "intimate gesture."

"I thought it was the most amazing thing in the entire world at the time," she said Friday. "He gave me attention when I wanted it. He was available when no one else really was."

When they got off the bus back in Wilmington, Frank handed the witness a letter that expressed his feelings. She did not present a copy of the letter, which she believes she had destroyed sometime during her college years.

However, that letter "opened a door" for her to express her feelings to Frank, she said. Previously, she felt confused about whether Frank reciprocated her feelings or merely viewed her as just another student.

"It's taken me a year to get to this point, but Pete I love you and you know I do," she wrote in one letter that she read in court.

Later in the summer, the witness and Frank met up to surf together at Wrightsville Beach. The alleged victim remembers it was clear Frank had never surfed before. She had come to the beach with a friend and the friend's mom, and said it felt weird for Frank to be there, too.

"It felt awkward," she said.

The witness and Frank left the beach together and ate lunch at a barbecue restaurant before he brought her to his home. He gave her a tour, including showing her the red satin sheets on his unmade bed, she told the court.

He then drove her back home, and she gave him a tour of her house. They were standing alone in her house when Frank grabbed her face and kissed her on the mouth, she said.

She felt "very uncomfortable" and began trying to get him to leave the home discreetly, so her neighbors wouldn't find out he had been there.

Friday's witness was the second alleged victim to take the stand in the trial.

The state's primary witness in the case, a now-35-year-old former student and alleged victim of Frank's, testified on Wednesday and Thursday. She claims she and Frank had a romantic and sexual relationship while she was a student of his during her middle school years from 1998 to 2000.

On Friday, prosecutors also called Levern Gurganious who served as the principal of Roland-Grise Middle School from 1997 through 2000. He read excerpts from a letter he had written to Frank in November 1999 about Frank driving a female student to his home after she asked him for a ride.

The pair, according to the letter, had planned to go to the same concert and stopped at Frank's home for Frank to get warmer clothing. Frank got sick, the letter stated, so instead of going to the concert, they went out to eat and then returned to Frank's home to play video games.

"In light of our previous conversations, this was poor judgement and inappropriate behavior," Gurganious wrote in the letter. The principal wrote the behavior was "inexcusable" and the letter was included in Frank's personnel file.

Frank was one of three teachers arrested over a two-year period for allegedly committing sex crimes with his students - Michael Kelly was taken into custody in February 2018 and later pleaded guilty to 59 charges for sex crimes, and Nicholas Oates was arrested in July 2018 but died before heading to trial.

Reporter Emma Dill can be reached at 910-343-2096 or edill@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: Alleged victim testifies in trial of former New Hanover band teacher

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