Local News

Christian school administrator faces child sex charges

Posted April 28, 2011 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2011 6:18 p.m. EDT

— Cumberland County investigators on Thursday charged the administrator of a Christian academy with sex crimes involving a minor.

Craig Steven Wheeler, 49, of 333 Baylor Drive in Fayetteville, was charged with 120 counts, including committing sexual acts with a student, statutory sex offense and taking indecent liberties with a minor.

During a brief court appearance Friday afternoon, Wheeler asked for a court-appointed attorney. He is being held in the Cumberland County jail under a $5.87 million bond.

Investigators said Wheeler, the administrator of Eastover Christian Academy, engaged in inappropriate behavior with a 14-year-old girl while at school on numerous occasions between June 2008 and September 2009.

The girl only recently told her mother, who alerted authorities, said Debbie Tanna, spokeswoman for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

Wheeler had set up a makeshift residence at the school, where the encounters allegedly occurred, Tanna said.

"From what we had learned, he was estranged from his wife and that he moved his home there and also was working inside the building at the time the encounters allegedly occurred," she said. "The encounters supposedly happened on campus during class time, when the two were alone inside the building in another room."

Officials at the school said their attorney has advised them not to comment.

Residents of the Eastover community said they were shocked to learn of the allegations.

Investigators have asked the parents of other students at the school to discuss the case with their children to see if anyone else might have been victimized, Tanna said.

"We don't know if there are any other victims. If there are, we'd like to know about them," she said.