Former Lincolnton High School principal Tony Lee Worley, 57, made his first court appearance at Lincoln County District Court on Monday, July 8. As he walked into the courthouse, Worley kept his head down and refused to make any comment.
At the hearing, Worley’s attorney of record, David Teddy, arranged for a waiver of probable cause which means his case will now be moved from district to superior court. The bond amount of $47,000 which was set on Friday, July 8 when he was arrested, remained in place.
Arrested on July 8 by the Lincolnton Police Department, Worley was charged with two counts of felony indecent liberties with a student, five counts of felony sexual activity with a student, two counts of felony solicitation of sex with a student and two counts of misdemeanor solicitation for indecent liberties with a minor. The magistrate set his bond at $47,000 and Worley was released on a surety appearance bond issued by Seneca Insurance Company. According to the release order, Worley is not to be on any Lincoln County Schools property, around any minor children or victims of these charges.
According to the arrest warrants, offenses of felony sexual activity with a student occurred between March 1 and June 7, offenses of indecent liberties with two known students occurred between March 1 and June 3 and offenses of solicitation for indecent liberties with a minor occurred between March 1 and June 7.
According to search warrants obtained by Lincolnton Police Detective Jennifer Green, allegations of sexual misconduct were made by a male student who was enrolled at Lincolnton High School during the 2018-2019 academic year. That student first approached Dr. Heath Belcher, the director of human resources for the school system, on June 21. Belcher then contacted law enforcement. Worley was suspended from his position on June 22 and resigned on June 25, giving up all professional licenses in the process.
Green has obtained two search warrants to date, one for Worley’s home in Lincolnton and three vehicles, and another for Worley’s office at Lincolnton High School.
Investigation of these crimes has been conducted by the Lincolnton Police Criminal Investigation Division with the assistance of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the Gastonia Police Department and the Lincoln County Child Advocacy Center, according to a press release received from Lincolnton Police Department captain Brian Green on July 8. Preservation letters were issued to a number of social media and online dating websites to give investigators opportunities to obtain search warrants. Additional search warrants are still to come.
When approached for comment after Worley’s arrest on Friday, Dr. Aaron Allen, associate superintendent of Lincoln County Schools replied via a press release saying that “student safety is a priority and Lincoln County Schools has and will continue to cooperate with local law enforcement during this process.”
Also in the press release, Allen said that “state and federal confidentiality laws protecting student and employee prevent the school system from releasing any specific information regarding Worley’s previous resignation or the criminal investigation. Although the school system is unable to provide any specific comment about this matter, it is important to highlight that any time the school system is presented with an allegation of employee criminal conduct, the school system immediately notifies local law enforcement and the school system cooperates with the law enforcement agency conducting the investigation.”