WALDORF, Md. — A former Maryland teacher’s aide and track coach accused of sexually abusing 42 youth between 2015 and 2017 has accepted a plea deal after being charged with over 200 offenses, including the attempted transmission of HIV.
According to reports, Carlos Bell, 30, was first investigated in December 2016 after a parent contacted authorities in regard to inappropriate text messages that her teenager had received on their cell phone. Bell, who had worked as an aide at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School and the indoor track coach at La Plata High School, was consequently removed from his positions.
A search warrant to seize Bell’s computer and cell phone then led the state crime lab to discover child pornography on his electronic devices, including recordings of Bell having sexual contact with students. However, according to television station WTOP, Bell bought more devices even while under investigation and molested eight more youth until his arrest in June 2017.
In a news conference on Friday, police said that it is believed that Bell sexually abused 42 juveniles, ages 11 to 17. Nearly 30 victims have been identified. At the time of Bell’s arrest, officials knew of seven male victims, and the number continued growing with the ongoing investigation. It is unclear whether all of the 42 victims were males.
“You really can’t imagine what had to be gone through when investigating this case,” Charles County State’s Attorney Tony Covington lamented, stating that there was hours of video footage that “nobody ever wants to see.”
Bell later told police that he was HIV positive, raising concern that some of the students might have been infected. Covington said that he is not aware of any child testing positive at this point.
The assaults are believed to have taken place both at school and his residence.
“It is devastating to us that something like this could take place in a classroom, in a school building where adults are charged with taking care of children,” Superintendent Kimberly Hill told WTOP in July, vowing to investigate how Bell was able to get away with committing the crime on school property.
“Someone should have been clued in that something was going wrong with this man,” Carlos Moore, an attorney for one of the parents whose child had been abused, also stated. “This man had to have some tendencies that he was a predator.”
Bell had no prior criminal record.
On Friday, under a plea deal, Bell pleaded guilty to 27 of the more than 200 counts, including sexual abuse of a minor, filming child pornography and attempted transmission of HIV. He will be sentenced on March 28 and will spend the rest of his life behind bars, as the maximum penalty under the plea agreement is 190 years.
“There is no death penalty in Maryland anymore,” Covington explained, as reported by WUSA-TV. “There’s not a life without parole for these types of charges. So, we had to have enough charges where realistically, if he’s sentenced to the max under this agreement—190 years—the likelihood is that he will be in jail for the rest of his life.”
The plea deal was reached in order to protect the privacy and anonymity of the youth who had been molested, sparing them from having to testify in court.