North Carolina

University awards NC charity leader — then found his sex abuse conviction as a teacher

Bill Murdock faces questions after a CNN investigation into his 1988 guilty plea for indecent liberties with a minor.
Bill Murdock faces questions after a CNN investigation into his 1988 guilty plea for indecent liberties with a minor. Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College

The woman who said the head of one of western North Carolina’s biggest charities sexually abused her when she was a teen detailed her account in a new CNN investigation.

The 1988 guilty plea in the case by Eblen Charities co-founder Bill Murdock, now 63, came to light after he received an honorary degree from the University of North Carolina Asheville last year, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.

He returned that degree earlier this month as he denied sexually abusing the 15-year-old girl when he was a teacher in 1988, the Citizen-Times reports.

Originally charged with a felony, Murdock pleaded guilty to “a misdemeanor count of taking indecent liberties with a child under 16 years old,” according to the newspaper. “My wife and I at the time were separated, and (I) got to be friends with this family,” Murdock told the newspaper, saying he pleaded guilty to avoid a costly legal fight.

He maintained his innocence, the Citizen-Times reports.

CNN says its reporters tracked down the woman who accused Murdock of abuse and talked to her and her family about what happened, providing insight into the allegations against Murdock.

“He would go into very elaborate stories about our dating, our wedding, and he always played himself as the hero,” the woman in the case, now 47, said, CNN reported. “My family was struggling financially. I was struggling. I just felt like he targeted us.... He saw vulnerability, and he swept in.”

Shelley Love Baldwin was in eighth grade when Murdock started abusing her, she told CNN. In the decades since, Baldwin said the abuse made her suicidal and she has needed therapy most of her life, according to CNN.

In a statement, Baldwin asked the media to call her a survivor, not a victim. “I am no longer his victim,” she said in the statement, according to Mountain Xpress.

“I am telling my story now because it felt like the right time for me when I was contacted by CNN about these events, and it is the truth. I no longer have minor children in the home who may be adversely affected, which has always been a concern of mine. My motivation is simply to speak the truth,” the statement read.

Baldwin and her family described the regular sexual abuse by the then 30-year-old man in the CNN investigation. He talked to the teen about marrying her and having children together after she turned 16, according to CNN.

Despite the 1988 guilty plea, Asheville City Schools hired Murdock as a math teacher in 1991, the Citizen-Times reports. He worked at the school until the following May, the newspaper reports.

Murdock is currently on the board of trustees for Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, according to the school.

He also remains CEO of Eblen Charities, according to the organization.

Eblen Charities released a statement Wednesday to TV station WLOS: “Eblen Charities has a standing board meeting scheduled this week. We are aware of the CNN article, are reviewing it and will discuss it at the meeting. Otherwise, we have no further comment at this time.”

Murdock also provided a statement to the station. “I have had the opportunity to review the story. Thirty-one years I have not change (sic) the facts, and the allegations remain untrue,” he said, according to WLOS. “I am grateful for the support of the board and so many in the community with whom I have worked to help those in times of need.”

Sexual violence is a social and public health problem in the U.S. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey says nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.

Just like many movements for equal rights in America, the path for women to seek recourse from sexual harassment has been through the courts. But grassroots activism in the 1970s opened the space for a nationwide conversation, and the Civil Right

Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.