The first clue was a text — a sexually explicit one sent from a track coach to a student.
When a parent noticed the text on a child’s phone, police began investigating, according to WJLA. But as police started looking into that sexually explicit message last December, they say they started to uncover evidence much more disturbing than graphic texts.
A computer belonging to former Charles County, Md. track coach Carlos Bell, 30, contained child pornography that police believe Bell himself had produced — including “graphic images of Bell sexually assaulting victims,” Charles County Sheriff Troy Berry told WJLA earlier this year when Bell was arrested.
Bell has now been accused of taking advantage of, abusing or sexually assaulting dozens of students at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, at his home and elsewhere, officials told FOX 5. And on Monday, Charles County State’s Attorney Tony Covington announced that a Maryland grand jury has indicted Bell on 206 counts for allegedly sexually assaulting those students.
Bell was fired from his position at the county’s schools in December. But even after that, when he knew he was under investigation, Bell did not stop the actions police were investigating him for, according to the indictment reviewed by People magazine. He allegedly sexually exploited three children in the six months between the investigation beginning and his arrest, and allegedly solicited sex from a fourth child.
Bell is HIV positive, according to prosecutors, but no alleged victim has tested positive for the virus. Police say that Bell assaulted at least several of his victims without using protection, according to FOX 5, potentially exposing them to the virus.
“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” Charles County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kimberly Hill said, according to FOX 5. “I can assure you there will be very persistent follow up for us to determine exactly what happened and how it was allowed to happen.”
About six months after the investigation began, Bell was arrested and charged with assaulting seven boys in June, according to CNN. But the number of alleged victims has snowballed since then: 42 alleged victims — 28 identified and 14 unidentified — have surfaced so far, according to prosecutors, their ages ranging from 11 to 17.
Bell’s charges include 22 counts of sexual abuse of a minor, 97 counts of filming child pornography, 6 counts of solicitation of a minor and 5 of attempted transfer of HIV, People reports.
“I really urge parents to talk to their kids, because they’re probably not going to come forward voluntarily,” Covington told WTOP. “We just don’t know if anybody who may have been impacted by this. We don’t know if everybody has come forward. There’s just no way to know.”
Bell is being held without bond, according to prosecutors. WTOP reports that, if convicted, he could face life in prison.