Charges against superintendent, BHS principal upheld by judge

Calhoun County Superintendent Mike Moore and Bruce High Principal Michael Gillespie will next face a trial in justice court after Circuit Judge Kelly Luther upheld charges filed by the Bruce Police Department citing the two for failing to report an alleged sex crime at Bruce High School.

Mike Moore

Mike Moore

Michael Gillespie

Michael Gillespie

"I'm not here to decide if you're guilty or not, only if there is enough evidence that charges be brought forward," Judge Kelly Luther said in issuing his ruling. He said based on the testimony in the hearing, there is enough evidence to justify these charges, but it will "ultimately be up to the state to prove that in trial."

Judge Luther said he would contact Justice Court to try and schedule a trial and be in contact with all parties by this time next week to confer.

Gillespie, Moore and Bruce Policeman Corey Alexander testified in the probable cause hearing in the courthouse in Pittsboro with  a few dozen onlookers seated in the audience.

Prior to testimony, the defense made a motion asking that the courtroom be cleared because the alleged sex crimes involve minors. Judge Kelly Luther denied that request, but noted no cameras would be allowed nor any mention of names of any minors during testimony.

Alexander was first on the stand and testified that his investigation revealed two suspicious instances dating back to last September involving Coach Loray Jordan, Jr., who is awaiting trial on a charge of touching a child for lustful purposes, and students that were both reported to Gillespie by teacher Carla Warner, in addition to other reports from students turned into the office in March of this year.

Alexander said their investigation revealed alleged texting, kissing, fondling, the exchange of money and more interaction between the 14-year-old student and Jordan. He said the victim's desk was also pulled next to Jordan's in his classroom so they could sit together every day.

Alexander testified they only became aware of the case when it was reported to them by the Department of Human Services, who had just learned of it through an anonymous phone call to their office.

"Once we began investigating, we collected strong evidence and filed affidavits against Jordan," Alexander said.

Under cross examination, Alexander testified he believes school officials should report every allegation of a potential sex crime at school to authorities as soon as they become aware of it and allow law enforcement to investigate. Alexander said based on his work on the case he found no evidence school officials were investigating the matter thoroughly or that any investigation was ongoing.

Gillespie testified that he did receive reports from teachers and students and followed the guidelines outlined in the staff handbook in notifying Sup. Mike Moore who instructed him to investigate the matter. Gillespie testified that their investigation didn't produce "substantial evidence" prior to the Bruce Police Department's involvement, but they were still looking into the matter.

Gillespie called into the question the credibility of the students giving the reports saying they had been in trouble before for making false statements and conspiring to cause harm or create problems for other students.

Gillespie said he interviewed the alleged victim and Coach Jordan, each separately, with teacher Heather Nix present. He said Jordan denied everything. "He was shocked," Gillespie said of Jordan's reaction to the accusations.

Gillespie said he also spoke with other students who said they had heard things but he didn't find anything that met an adequate burden of proof, but he and Nix were "monitoring" the situation and warned Jordan if anything else came to light he would be fired immediately.

Gillespie also stated that incidents that allegedly took place in February between Jordan and the victim were known by the victim's family but not reported to the school.

Gillespie said he didn't believe there were any eye-witnesses to any of the alleged criminal behavior because "if junior high students had seen that we would have heard more about it. You can't sneeze in our junior high without someone knowing about it."

Gillespie said Sup. Moore had told him if they ever did find anything substantial in their investigation, they should notify authorities, but they hadn't reached that point. He said he was surprised when the police showed up at the school and informed him they were pursuing the matter.

Sup. Moore was the last to testify and referred to Gillespie "as honorable and Christian a man as you could find." He said they took the allegations very seriously "and investigated to the fullest extent."

Moore said he wasn't notified of any of it until March.

He testified he's been involved in many investigations throughout his 30-plus year career in education, including many of this nature.

"We've had several in this county and worked with law enforcement in each one," Moore said.

"But the last one wasn't reported either and he's in the pen now," County Attorney Tina Scott replied, referring to the Billy Dill case at Vardaman. Her comment was objected to by the defense and sustained by Judge Luther.

"If we had come up with any kind of evidence we would have reported it," Moore said. "We get allegations a lot and take them all seriously. We didn't have anything concrete here until the police showed us the facebook message."

At the conclusion of the testimony the defense again made a motion to dismiss, which was rejected by the judge who followed with his ruling that the charges move forward in justice court.

Moore was represented by attorney Jamie Jacks of the Jacks/Luciano law firm in Cleveland. Gillespie was represented by attorney Robert E. Hayes Jr. of Hayes Law Firm in Southaven.

Charges previously filed against teacher Heather Nix were dropped in the case. Alexander said after the hearing that after studying the statute it pertained to school administration and not teachers, leading them to agree to dismiss those charges.