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An earlier report ....in February
A shocking revelation to the town in which she lives and the people who know her ...|
Friday, February 11, 2005
Teacher's sex case has town in turmoil
CENTERTOWN, Tenn. — There's a Pamela Rogers Turner — the sweet-tempered, grade-school teacher who is seen as a role model for students.
And there's a Pamela Rogers Turner who in her college days was the glitzy Ms. Monday Nitro of World Championship Wrestling at Spring Break festivities in 1997.
The immense difference in those two images of the 27-year-old married teacher and coach has left townspeople and acquaintances here confused, as recent charges thrust this tiny town and its attractive teacher into a national media storm.
Many here are having a hard time coming to grips with the knowledge that the district attorney general has filed 28 sexual misconduct charges, accusing her of having sex with a 13-year-old boy who attended her school.
It's that contrast also that has drawn attention from a national press corps that has followed TWO FAIRLY RECENT AND SIMILAR CASES OF FEMALE TEACHERS IN WASHINGTON AND FLORIDA ACCUSED OF HAVING SEX WITH MINOR BOYS.
Dale Potter, who serves as prosecutor for Warren County, said that, while some in the media seemed to be highlighting the relationship of a young boy and an attractive older woman, ''FOR US, A SEX ABUSE CASE IS A SEX ABUSE CASE.''
''It's one thing for kids to think about and fantasize about a potential Mrs. Robinson,'' he said, referring to a seductive, older woman character in the movie The Graduate. ''It's another for that Mrs. Robinson to act.''
THOSE ACTS, HE SAID, ARE FELONIES, NOT FANTASIES.
Turner's estranged husband, Christopher, was not available for comment. But the 31-year-old high school basketball coach has filed for divorce, citing ''inappropriate marital conduct.''
Their Christmas card from a year ago shows a smiling, embracing couple standing in front of a mural of a moonlit cruise ship.
It's another piece of the puzzle that no longer seems to fit the image that many acquaintances saw.
THEY KNOW PAMELA TURNER AS A FORMER HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL STAR AND A YOUNG WOMAN ADMIRED FOR HER POLITE PERSONALITY AND CHARMING WAYS.
But Potter sees a CHILD ABUSER.
His office has charged Turner with 15 counts of sexual battery and 13 counts of statutory rape. She is accused of having sex with a 13-year-old boy who attended Centertown Elementary, where Turner taught physical education and coached basketball.
If convicted on all counts, Turner could face more than 100 years behind bars, although Potter said that a more likely sentence would run from one to several years.
Messages left for Turner's lawyer were not returned immediately.
Calls to a cell phone known to be Turner's also were not returned, but a message stated, ''Thank you so much for the support and please keep me in your prayers.''
Many can't comprehend it
Billy Medley has served Pam Turner plenty of meals at his family's meat-and-three restaurant in Centertown, where the woman ate regularly with her teaching friends.
The restaurant is a few hundred yards from the gray elementary schoolhouse where the teacher worked and where her alleged victim attended school.
THE BOY, WHO IS KNOWN TO MANY IN THE COMMUNITY, IS DESCRIBED BY MEDLEY AS ''AN AWESOME ATHLETE, A REAL SUPERSTAR.''
Medley had praise, too, for the teacher, who played on a state championship high school basketball team in Fentress County coached by her father, Lamar Rogers.
''It's a shame you can't interview her right now,'' Medley said yesterday. ''She's an awesome woman. SHE'S BEEN A REAL ROLE MODEL FOR THE CHILDREN.''
Centertown is a small community tucked into a rural corner of Warren County, where people specialize in growing plants that are intended to be shipped elsewhere.
''I'll tell you, Centertown is getting to be known for something else now
Opinion is mixed about the serious charges facing Turner.
''I do believe it somewhat,'' said resident Howard Thomas, noting the lengthy list of charges that Warren County authorities have leveled at the young teacher. ''But of course, you're innocent until proven guilty.''
Turner frequented a tanning salon adjacent to Medley's restaurant.
Medley said that the teacher was quite proper and modest when she arrived to take her turn on the tanning bed. He said she was an accomplished athlete herself and that the little children at the school, where his 6-year-old daughter also attends, adored the teacher.
''They would scream, 'Mrs. Turner! Mrs. Turner!' whenever they saw her,'' Medley said.
Parent Frank Tibbetts sat in his idling car waiting for the bell to ring. He emphasized that no one knows for sure what happened except for the defendant and her alleged victim. But the gossip was thick inside the classrooms, according to what his children told him.
''If it did happen, it's a mighty sad thing,'' he said. ''You need to be able to trust your children's teachers.''
FEMALE SEX ABUSERS ARE RARE
Metro police Sgt. Mark Chesnut has spent eight years investigating sexual child abuse.
''Less than 5% of our cases are female perpetrators,'' said Chesnut, who very recently transferred to another division.
Chesnut said he could not recall any cases of female teachers being accused of sexual abuse on a student in Davidson County during his time as a sex crimes investigator.
Vanderbilt University clinical psychologist Tom Catron said that THE SEXUAL ABUSE OF A MINOR COULD HAVE LONG-LASTING EFFECTS ON THE CHILD.
He said the depth of the devastation would depend on the trauma associated with the abuse and on the effectiveness of the treatment.
Catron said that while in some cases adult perpetrators will claim that their young victims were consensual partners, it is very difficult to see a 13-year-old as being on equal emotional footing with the older sex partner.
He said the fact that the adult charged in the Warren case was an authority figure could hurt the child's sense of security and ''distort their sense of what sexual intimacy is. It could really scar them for life.''
Hometown doubts charges
Turner comes from a well-known family of educators in Fentress County. Her father is a legendary girls basketball coach at Clarkrange High School, having won seven state championships in 29 years. Her mother is an elementary school teacher.
Turner started at power forward on the 1995 state championship team.
Fentress County Circuit Court Clerk Frank Smith said news of her arrest had been swirling around Jamestown and that people didn't believe it. Smith, an avid booster of the Clarkrange basketball team, said he had known her since she was a little girl.
Smith followed her career in college, too, and said she played one year at Tennessee Tech before transferring to Cumberland University.
He said many people in town believed the accusations were mixed up with a nasty divorce filed in January.
''She was a super ball player and a super person,'' Smith said. ''She's one of the warmest people and nicest people you'd ever meet.''
Former state legislator Tommy Burnett, who splits time between Nashville and his home in Fentress County, said his daughter was friends with Turner growing up. Burnett said she would come around his family's home.
''I never saw anything out of her that would give rise to my belief she would be guilty,'' Burnett said. ''She's got a super, outgoing personality.''
The Rogers family also has a history with chicken farming — one of Fentress County's main industries.
Attorney Skid Garrett said his son was good friends with Turner's only brother. They played football together in high school and his son would spend time at the Rogers home.
''It's going to be devastating to this community if Pamela is found guilty,'' he said. ''Frankly, everybody just loves her here.''