Former Upstate teacher-coach faces 24 sex charges

Published: Sep. 29, 2012 at 9:29 PM EDT
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Richard "Trey" Gardner, III (Source: WYFF)
Richard "Trey" Gardner, III (Source: WYFF)

OCONEE COUNTY, S.C. (WYFF) — A teacher faces two dozen child sex charges, stemming from his time of employment at an Upstate middle school.

Oconee County sheriff's deputies arrested Richard "Trey" Gardner, III of Kershaw, on Thursday with the assistance of the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office.

Gardner was taken into custody at his place of employment with the Chesterfield County School District.

Gardner worked for the School District of Oconee County as a teacher at Walhalla Middle School and wrestling coach at Walhalla High School from 1995-2005.

Gardner is charged with eleven counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor and thirteen counts of lewd act on a minor.

The Sheriff's Office said the charges follow a month-long investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of two of Gardner's former students.

Capt. Travis Tilson said, "We're continuing the investigation at this point. It's very early in that we are certain that there are two victims, but we're not ruling out the possibility that there are more. In fact, we believe that there are. We just don't know who they are yet."

The Sheriff's Office said the investigation stemmed from a report received on Sept. 6 alleging sexual abuse by Gardner on former students of his between 1998 and 2003.

The alleged victims were between the ages of 12 and 14 at the time, and were on the wrestling team. The crimes are alleged to have occurred both at the schools and at Gardner's home.

Investigators said they are working with two alleged victims, but they have reason to believe there may be more.

Tilson said, "Some of these cases are 9 and 10 or 12 years old, so while it's unusual for us to have a case appear that old, it doesn't change the fact that it's still a crime and we're still investigating it like it happened yesterday."

Deputies are asking for anyone who may have information regarding other victims related to this case to contact the Oconee County Sheriff's Office at 864-638-4111 or the nearest law enforcement agency.

Gardner is being held at the Oconee County Detention Center with bond set at $730,000.

Tilson said the Sheriff's Office has a team that is now dedicated to the investigation.

"We are turning our children over to people each day when the rest of us go to work, and we entrust them to be cared for and it's disappointing when that does not always happen," Tilson said. "It is often hard for a victim to come forward, but we would encourage them to do that because we need to know what occurred -- and there is help, even ten years later. There are things we can do to help."

Tilson said there may be victims in other counties and states because this isn't the only place Gardner has taught.

"I think it's important that the truth be told," he said.

Copyright 2012 by WYFF All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.