Local News

Johnston teen speaks out about sex abuse claims

Posted March 22, 2012 5:43 p.m. EDT
Updated March 23, 2012 6:48 a.m. EDT

— A 16-year-old boy who says he was sexually abused for nearly two years by his former middle school teacher is speaking out with a cautionary tale for others his age who might be in a similar situation.

"I was just trying to keep it quiet. I didn't feel comfortable saying anything to anybody," the boy said Thursday, three weeks after he went to police to report that Paul Clifton Canally took advantage of him from the spring of 2010 until last month.

Canally, 29, a former science teacher at Archer Lodge Middle School in Johnston County, faces more than three dozen charges, including six counts of statutory rape, two counts of sex with a student and seven counts of indecent liberties for alleged offenses dating to 2008.

Five other male teens under the age of 16 have reported similar crimes to police.

"I believe there's a lot more," said the boy, who is not being identified because investigators consider him a victim of sex crimes. "I don't really know when he started doing this."

In the boy's case, he says, the close relationship he had with Canally began over Facebook.

The two, at first, traded harmless messages, and eventually Canally worked to earn the boy's trust as well as his mother's – even inviting them over for dinner at his Clayton home and to the neighborhood pool.

"I didn't suspect anything, especially not at first. He seemed like it was his calling to nurture children," the boy's mother said. "He seemed very much like that was his thing. He (seemed he) was a good Christian and that he was doing this for intrinsic purposes – like to be a good person."

Canally would take the boy to do fun things, buy him things and take him to dinner at fancy restaurants.

"He made me feel comfortable," the boy said.

According to search warrants, Canally started asking the boy personal questions about himself, told him "he was not natural" and that he "might have something wrong with him."

The behavior escalated over the two years.

The boy told investigators that Canally eventually convinced him to watch pornography, took inappropriate photos and engaged with him in various sex acts.

It ended last month, when the mother of one of the boy's friends overheard the teenager on the phone arguing with Canally.

"(She told the boy) the conversation was not normal and that Paul Canally sounded possessive and controlling," according to the warrants.

The boy broke down, told her about the abuse, and with the woman's encouragement, he went to Clayton police.

"I just sat there (with police) and said, 'This is the right thing.' I couldn't take it anymore, and I didn't feel comfortable with it," the boy said. "I asked him many times to stop it, and he just wouldn't stop."

Now, he wants to warn others of what to look for.

"If anyone is asking you to check out your private parts, if they're touching you or doing anything weird," he said. "Definitely, (if) red flags are going up, and you should tell your parents."

If it doesn't feel right, he said, tell somebody.

"I would say that they would need to come forward … that they're being a hero, and they're helping others."

His mother urges parents to always trust their instincts.

At the time, she says, she never suspected Canally was molesting her son, but looking back, some things just didn’t seem right.

For example, she says, her son spent the night with Canally on several occasions. She tried to justify the sleepovers – it was late, her son was tired and she'd pick him up first thing in the morning – but she never felt comfortable with the arrangements.

"You're taught to trust people and not to be prejudiced against them," she said. "Maybe there's something a little bit odd about them. … Trust your gut."

She's now seeking counseling for her son and being supportive of him.

"I've always told him, 'You're brave. You've done nothing wrong,'" she said. "These people are very good at manipulating families. This is their purpose in life."

As for Canally, he is in the Johnston County jail under a $2.63 million bond. His defense attorney, James Levinson, has declined to comment on the case.

The boy and his mother both say that they hope Canally remains behind bars for the rest of his life.

"I'm just very happy that he's in jail and that we're getting justice for everything that he's done to me and the other boys that he's hung out with," the boy said.