A second alleged victim of former New Hanover County Schools teacher Peter Frank spoke out on Friday to detail the evolution of her relationship with the college gang teacher, which began when she was in eighth grade.
During his first two years at Roland-Grise College, the alleged victim said he crossed paths with Frank but did not know him well. She was not in the band but sometimes saw him in the music room, which became a “gathering place” before school, she said, as her friends dropped off their instruments each morning.
She said things got more serious in the fall of her eighth grade in 2003, when she started instant messaging Frank online. On November 8, 2003, she called Frank and they spoke on the phone for the first time.
“I felt like I was in love with him”: Trial begins in sexual abuse case against former NHCS teacher
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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 about her own emotions, which were difficult for other students her age to understand.
At the time, Frank told her he was 27, but he was actually 30.
“Talking to someone older felt really 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 of Roland-Grise between 1999 and 2019.
He was arrested in January 2020, charged with 29 crimes and expelled from school shortly thereafter. Friday concluded the first week of Frank’s trial, which is taking place in Bladen County.
Frank faces 17 counts, including indecent liberty with a child, indecent liberty with a student, first-degree sexual offense, sexual activity with a child, sexual activity with a student, and lawful sexual offense with a 13-year-old. , 14 or 15 years old.
The StarNews does not generally name victims of alleged sexual assaults.
On Friday, the witness said he spoke daily with Frank throughout the 2003-2004 school year via instant messaging. She often called Frank on his cell phone from her landline and sometimes delivered him typed letters during the school day or sent them to his private email address.
They talked about music, her family life, other kids at school, common interests and their relationship, she said.
“I may only be 14, but I feel like you and I are at the same point in life,” she wrote in a letter to her. “When I’m with you, I feel like my life has meaning.”
At the request of state prosecutors, the alleged victim read excerpts from a typed letter she used to profess her love for Frank, an eighth-grade English essay dedicated to him, and a handwritten message that he had scribbled in his college yearbook.
The alleged victim said she spent time with Frank on a school trip to New York that summer. She described an incident which she interpreted as an “intimate gesture”.
“I thought it was the most amazing thing in the world at the time,” she said on Friday. “He gave me attention when I wanted it. He was available when no one else really was.
When they got off the bus in Wilmington, Frank handed the witness a letter expressing his feelings. She did not submit a copy of the letter, which she believes she destroyed 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 or just saw her as another student.
“It took me a year to get to this but Pete, I love you and you know I love you,” she wrote in a letter she read to the court.
Later that summer, Witness and Frank met to surf together at Wrightsville Beach. The alleged victim recalls it being clear that Frank had never surfed before. She had come to the beach with a friend and the friend’s mother, and said it felt weird that Frank was there too.
“It was awkward,” she said.
The witness and Frank left the beach together and had lunch at a barbecue restaurant before bringing him home. He showed her around, including showing her the red satin sheets on his unmade bed, she told the court.
He then took her home and she showed him around 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 started trying to sneak him out of the house, so her neighbors wouldn’t find out he was there.
Friday’s witness was the second alleged victim to testify at the trial.
The state’s main witness in the case, a 35-year-old former student and alleged victim of Frank, testified Wednesday and Thursday. She claims that she and Frank had a romantic and sexual relationship when she was one of his students during his college years from 1998 to 2000.
Prosecutors also called Levern Gurganious, who served as principal of Roland-Grise Middle School from 1997 to 2000, on Friday. He read excerpts from a letter he wrote to Frank in November 1999 about Frank driving a female student home after asking her for a ride.
The couple, according to the letter, had planned to go to the same concert and stopped at Frank’s house so Frank could get some warmer clothes. Frank got sick, the letter said, so instead of going to the concert, they went out to eat and then went back to Frank’s house to play video games.
“In light of our previous conversations, this amounted to poor judgment and inappropriate behavior,” Gurganious wrote in the letter. The manager wrote that 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 arrested in February 2018 and later pleaded guilty to 59 counts of sex crimes, and Nicholas Oates was arrested in July 2018 but died before being tried.
Reporter Emma Dill can be reached at 910-343-2096 or [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: Alleged victim testifies at trial of former New Hanover band teacher