CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Mingo County teacher was indicted this week on charges that he sexually abused two underage students.
James Hiram Keatley II, 47, is a math teacher and boys basketball and football coach at Matewan Middle School. He was suspended with pay in December when State Police began investigating allegations he groped, kissed and made inappropriate comments to two female students in front of others.
Keatley is charged with three counts of third-degree sexual abuse and one count of battery. The victims were under 16 years old at the time, according to the indictment.
State Police Cpl. L.D. Hensley led the investigation into incidents that occurred from September to November 2011, according to the indictment. Testimony from Hensley, both victims and Matewan Principal Shannon Blackburn were given to a grand jury in April.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. It only means that a grand jury believes enough evidence of a crime exists to warrant a jury trial.
Relatives of both victims spoke to the Gazette in December and said Keatley used his position of authority to intimidate the girls into unwanted sexual contact.
He's accused of making inappropriate comments and groping one 15-year-old victim. He also allegedly kissed another 15-year-old victim in front of about five other students and a teacher in his classroom. The teacher who witnessed the alleged assault reported the incident to Blackburn, who then notified police.
Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks said in an email he commends the victims who came forward.
"Turning a blind eye, silence and indifference lead to atrocities against children like those that occurred at Penn State University," Sparks wrote. "Regrettably, schools are no longer a safe haven for children. Protecting children from abuse by restoring safe school environments must be of the highest priority."
Mingo Superintendent Randy Keathley said he could not comment because the matter is a personnel issue. He confirmed that Keatley had been paid since his suspension in December.
State Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said the state agency assisted in the investigation alongside State Police and Child Protective Services.
She couldn't comment on specifics of the investigation but said the case could go before the State Committee on Professional Teaching Standards.
The committee's inquiry is separate from the criminal investigation, but could result in the removal of Hiram's teaching license. The committee's findings would go before Jorea Marple, state superintendent of schools, who would make the final decision.
No one answered at Keatley's public phone listing Friday. His trial in Mingo County is set for October.Reach Travis Crum at travis.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.