Former Davidson College professor accused of online chats with underage girls

Michael Dorcas handles a live python during a lecture in 2011 at Davidson College, where he was a biology professor.
Michael Dorcas handles a live python during a lecture in 2011 at Davidson College, where he was a biology professor. Davidson College file photo

A former Davidson College professor is under investigation, accused of using online chats to communicate with underage girls.

According to a search warrant, the investigation into former Davidson College professor Michael Edwin Dorcas began in February 2016 when the state was contacted by investigators in Wisconsin.

A 12-year-old girl from Wisconsin told investigators she had become online friends on a video game with someone she believed to be a 15-year-old boy. She says the two began chatting online via Skype.

“Once the two started web chatting via Skype, the suspect was able to convince the victim to remove articles of clothing in order for the victim to expose her breast for the suspect’s sexual gratification,” the search warrant states. “The suspect requested the victim to remove her panties, however, the victim did not comply.”

Wisconsin investigators tracked the user name and IP address to Dorcas’ home in Huntersville.

Dorcas, 53, was a professor of biology at Davidson College, with a specialization in reptiles, specifically snakes.

On April 7, investigators searched Dorcas’ home. Dorcas admitted that he owned the email account associated with the Skype account.

“Shortly after (he) gave this information, he stopped speaking to investigators,” the warrant states.

Dorcas told investigators that he didn’t use any electronic devices owned by Davidson College. In mid-May, an attorney representing the school contacted investigators and said they hired a firm to search Dorcas’ school equipment.

The firm reportedly found “numerous chat logs within Skype on the desktop computer used by (Dorcas) while at Davidson College.” According to the search warrant, the screen name matched the name being investigated by the SBI.

The user communicated with “approximately 17 individuals who represented themselves as being underage females,” the warrant stated. “One female specifically stated she was 14 years of age.”

Two others had birth dates of 2002 and 2000, making then under 16 during the chats.

“During the communications on Dorcas’ devices with the suspected underage minors on Skype, the minors appeared to be in nothing but bras and panties at different times,” according to the warrant.

According to Davidson College, Dorcas resigned from the school on May 23, one week after the school’s lawyer contacted the SBI with the findings.

“Davidson College is aware of the search warrants that the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has executed as part of its investigation concerning former Davidson College employee Michael Dorcas,” school officials said in a statement to WBTV. “The college has cooperated fully with the investigation.”

The SBI says its investigation of Dorcas is still in progress.

Dorcas was the author of several books, including “A Guide to the Snakes of North Carolina.” He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has received numerous awards for his research.

According to an online biography, Dorcas' research program focuses on the study of amphibians and reptiles. He is involved in numerous research projects, including the study of invasive Burmese pythons in Florida.

The biography states his research program is interdisciplinary in nature and relies heavily on collaboration with students.

WBTV is the Observer’s news partner.