Former NC Middle School Teacher Arrested For Sex Crimes

SBI agents said the victim who came forward is male.

GREENSBORO, N.C.-- The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) has arrested a man for sex crimes allegedly committed in the 1980's against middle school students.

Thomas Tilman Cridlebaugh, 71, was arrested at his house in High Point Wednesday, the SBI confirmed.

Special Agent Scott Williams confirm to WFMY News 2 they have charged Cridlebaugh with crimes against one victim. He says investigators are interviewing other potential victims in the case and more charges could be coming.

Williams says the male victim attended Ledford Middle School in Davidson County and was barely a teenager when the alleged abuse started. Agent Williams says the sexual offenses continued for a few years.

He says the SBI is interviewing at least two other victims and have yet to bring charges in those cases.

According to Williams, all the alleged victims were boys and the incidents happened on school grounds.

Cridlebaugh was a history teacher, among other things, who also helped in the sports department at the school.

People in the community say he also did a lot outside of school and even worked with the board of elections.

Cridlebaugh was booked into the Davidson County Jail charged with 10 counts of sex offenses against that one victim.

His bond is set at $5 million.

Investigators urge anyone else who believes they were victimized by Cridlebaugh to call a 24-hour hotline: 336-209-5201.

No information from those calls will be shared with the public, Williams said.

Davidson County Schools released this statement about the allegations against Cridlebaugh:

"The Davidson County Schools are certainly saddened and surprised by charges against one of our former employees. Upon being made aware of these charges, the Davidson County Schools immediately reviewed the contents of Mr. Thomas Cridlebaugh's personnel file. There are certainly no reports of any such behavior or incidents that were brought to our attention during the course of his employment with the Davidson County Schools. Our thoughts and condolences are with any and all victims in this matter and we will certainly cooperate with law enforcement as requested."


Challenges For Investigators & prosecutors:

Agent Williams said at a news conference Thursday morning that given the nature of the alleged crime and the fact that it happened more than 30 years ago, there's most likely no physical or forensic evidence available. Investigators will have to rely on witness testimony and corroborate the information.

WFMY News 2 spoke with Defense Attorney Locke Clifford about this type of case.

He said both the state and the defense have a similar challenge in the courtroom.

"There is no way to go back to the scene and get the evidence," said Clifford. "You can't find anything about the facts of the case. The only thing there is is the report, which is coming 30 years late."

Investigators are also facing another challenge as they try to gather evidence. "It really comes down to witness statements that corroborate each other and because of that, you're talking about looking back on something that's 30 years old," said Scott Williams, of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. "Memories fade, people move on and just don't want to talk about it."

There is no statute of limitations for felony sex crimes in North Carolina.

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