Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Former Venango County Minister Arrested for Propositioning Teen Girl

Police say substitute teacher met his prey on Internet

from The Oil City Derrick:

A former state trooper and minister working as a substitute teacher in Venango County is charged with sexually propositioning what he believed was a 13-year-old girl he met on the Internet.

Agents with the state attorney general’s office on Monday arrested Lawrence W. McElroy, 61, of Cooperstown, after he traveled to the Pittsburgh area to allegedly meet the “girl” for sex.

The attorney general’s office said McElroy, a retired state police sergeant, was actually talking with an undercover agent posing as the “girl.”

Agents arrested McElroy Monday after he arrived in Canonsburg, Washington County, where he had allegedly arranged to meet the girl for sex — believing she did not have school because of an extended Easter vacation.

McElroy, who has substituted in the four Venango County public school districts, is accused of trying to call the girl three times from Franklin High School.

In addition to phone calls, he is accused of engaging in a series graphic Internet chats with the girl and transmitting a nude webcam video of himself.

McElroy, an East Brady native, was charged with five felony counts and was placed in Washington County jail on $250,000 bond.

A 20-year veteran of the force, McElroy joined the state police in January 1973. In January 1992, then a sergeant, he was named station commander of the state police Shippenville barracks in Clarion County.

He retired as a member of the Tionesta barracks in Forest County little more than a year later in March 1993.

After his retirement, McElroy served as a minister with three churches — one in Clarion County — associated with Kiskimineta Presbytery in Armstrong County.

From March 1992 to December 1995, he was a minister at Oakwood Presbyterian Church in New Bethlehem, said Wayne Yost, the general presbyter of Kiskimineta.

Yost said McElroy served at separate churches in Armstrong County until 1999, when “removed himself” from the ministry.

McElroy has been a substitute teacher with several Venango County school districts since 2000, when he started as a guest teacher.

Guest teachers are nonteachers with college degrees who obtain emergency certification so they can substitute when the list of regular substitutes is exhausted.

In 2001, McElroy received his certification as a social studies teacher for grades seven to 12, according to Franklin district officials.

As with all school employees, substitutes must obtain clearances indicating they have not been convicted of a serious crime involving a child.

Franklin superintendent Ronald Paranick said McElroy’s clearances have been on file since 2000. He added the district has not received complains about McElroy.

McElroy allegedly made three calls from the high school to the special agent posing as the girl.

“If he was subbing at the high school, we don’t prevent anyone (employees) from using the phone at lunch or (on break),” Paranick said.

Following the news of his arrest, McElroy was removed from the district’s list of substitutes, Paranick said.

Valley Grove officials said McElroy served as a substitute for one day in February 2001. He had been on guest teacher lists at Cranberry and Oil City, though officials at both schools said he would be removed.

According to a criminal complaint, McElroy used an Internet chat room to approach the “girl” April 5.

He used the screen name “iamtheone7890.” His name changed to “law mcelroy” when the agent added him to her “buddy list,” the complaint said.

McElroy allegedly began a graphic conversation with the girl — asking about her sexual experience and later encouraging her to delete the transcript “so mom doesn’t find it.”

In conversations during the next several days, McElroy allegedly expressed his desire to meet the girl for sex, told her he “loves her,” and explained in extensive detail the sex acts he wished to perform with her, the complaint said.

Following his arrest, agents searched McElroy’s vehicle, locating gifts he promised the girl, including a silver necklace and a new computer webcam. They also found a prescription pill bottle containing Viagra along with lubricant, the attorney general’s office said.

Additionally, agents searched McElroy’s home, seizing a computer and webcam, which will be analyzed as part of an ongoing investigation, officials said.

McElroy is charged with counts of unlawful contact with a minor (related to sexual offenses) and criminal attempted unlawful contact with a minor (related to sexual offenses), both first-degree felonies that are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $ 25,000 fines.

He is also charged with two counts of unlawful contact with a minor (related to obscene and sexual materials and performances) and one count of criminal use of a communication facility, all third-degree felonies that are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.


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