Two Charlotteans are among eight men charged this week with using the internet to solicit sex with a minor – who turned out to be a police detective.
Lincolnton Police ended the three-month investigation Wednesday, with a promise that the department is still looking for any children the suspects may have victimized in the past.
Police identified the suspects as: Matthew Johnathon Morrison of Charlotte; Jeffrey Alan Churchwell of Charlotte; Michael John Seidle of Denver; Paul Robert Icenhour II of Granite Falls; George Alan Kanupp of Maiden; Brent Robert Odenheimer of Lincolnton; Matthew Ryan Ellis of McConnells, S.C.; Blane Fitzgerald Gregory of Spruce Pine.
One of the men, Blaine Gregory, was a teacher at Newton-Conover Middle School, reported the Observer's news partner WBTV. School officials said he "resigned his employment and surrendered his teaching license" Wednesday.
Hickoryrecord.com reported Gregory was named assistant principal at East Alexander Middle School in July. But he stepped down when an opening for a teacher of exceptional children became available at Newton-Conover Middle School, the Record reported. He is a husband, father of two and active with a local church, the newspaper also reported.
Investigators say the undercover officers “developed a dialogue” with the suspects, in which an agreement was made for offenders to meet the child in Lincolnton in order to have an unlawful sexual relationship.
“The offenders arrived to the predetermined location to meet the child, where they were then arrested without incident,” said a statement from the department.
Detectives charged all eight men with one count of soliciting a child for an unlawful sex act by a computer, and appearing to meet such child. All of the suspects were transported to the Lincoln County Magistrate’s Office where they were given a secured bond and then placed in the Lincoln County Jail.
“All resources available will be utilized in an effort to locate and identify if there are any potential victims as it relates to these specific offenders,” said Lt. Jason Munday of the Lincolnton Police Department.
“The main goal is to deter this type of behavior online and identify any other potential victims in an effort to provide services as needed.”
If anyone can provide any information about the suspects or details of other possible victims, contact Det. Brent Heavner of the Lincolnton Police Department at 704-736-8900.
The case is still active and additional charges are possible, officials said.