Crime

GBI investigating private school student’s reported rape at party

GBI agents interviewed Windsor Academy students this week after a reported sexual assault at an off-campus party.
GBI agents interviewed Windsor Academy students this week after a reported sexual assault at an off-campus party. lfabian@macon.com

This week has been like “walking the fine line of razor blades” for Windsor Academy headmaster John Welch.

After the Knights’ 41 to 0 homecoming victory last week against Georgia Christian School, Welch learned Sunday that one of his 16-year-old students at the south Bibb private school reported a sexual assault at an off-campus party outside of Roberta.

“You feel your heart break for the victim and you feel your heart break for those accused who profess they’re innocent,” Welch said.

Awaiting the outcome of the investigation, he could not disclose anything about the students involved, or the specific allegations.

“I’m not going to hide anything,” Welch said Friday morning with his office door wide open during an interview with the Telegraph. “Right is right, and wrong is wrong.”

The accuser and a parent traveled to the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office to make a statement about the incident Sunday morning, Sheriff Lewis Walker said.

Investigators are trying to learn exactly what happened at the gathering on Avera Road between 11 p.m. Sept. 16 and 3 a.m. that Saturday morning.

“It was reported to us kind of like a rape, but it could be a sexual assault,” Walker said Thursday.

Because the accuser mentioned multiple suspects, Walker called in the GBI for additional manpower to conduct interviews.

J.T. Ricketson, special agent in charge of the Region 13 office of the GBI in Perry, said investigators are looking into a “small party involving a bunch of kids.”

Investigators have determined about 20-30 people were there, he said.

“Something may or may not have happened. We haven’t substantiated it yet,” Ricketson said Thursday.

Agents questioned about a half-dozen Windsor Academy students Tuesday and Wednesday, Welch said.

“We’re definitely not going to sweep anything under the rug. That’s not how we operate,” said Welch, who took over the helm of the school on Jones Road in June. “They just want to know if there was a crime.”

The party was “definitely not a school function” and Welch was told there were students present from other schools.

“We know it’s a tragedy. I just want to find out what happened and deal with it and move on and not let any student suffer,” Welch said.

Alcohol was involved, he was told.

Walker said investigators also are looking into whether the victim was “incapacitated” in some way.

He was expecting to hear back from the GBI once interviews are completed.

As of Friday afternoon, about 10 people had been questioned, Ricketson said.

Wednesday, in an event that had been planned for about five weeks, former University of Georgia football standout Tim Worley counseled the entire student body about making good choices and avoiding peer pressure.

“God knew ahead of time that we would need that,” Welch said of the coincidence. “I hate it sometimes you have to have a tragic situation for kids to know it’s OK to say ‘no.’”

Welch understands that an investigation takes time, but he is anxious to learn the outcome.

“I’m worried about them,” Welch said of the students involved in the investigation. “The school will be here, but that shadow will haunt them the rest of their lives.”

Liz Fabian: 478-744-4303, @liz_lines

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