Accused homeless man’s cell porn led to Rock Hill educator

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comMarch 19, 2013 

— A homeless man in Tennessee accused of downloading child pornography on his cellphone led police to a Rock Hill educator arrested last week on child sexual exploitation charges, investigators said Tuesday.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police on Friday arrested Darin Pearson, 32, charging him with three counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor after finding evidence of child pornography on electronics at his Charlotte townhome, police said.

Pearson, the sixth-grade assistant principal at Sullivan Middle School in Rock Hill, will remain on paid administrative leave until the case is closed. He was released from jail on bond Saturday.

Last month, the Metro Nashville Police Department received complaints that Earl W. Arnold, 34, was recording students with his iPhone outside a high school in downtown Nashville, according to a police department news release.

Arnold allowed detectives to look through his iPhone, where they found child pornography, according to court documents. He was charged with two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

Detectives further examined Arnold’s phone and found pornographic images of children had been sent to and traded with other people, an arrest affidavit reads.

“Pearson’s name was developed as a result of the phone analysis,” Nashville police said. They would not say if Pearson’s name was among Arnold’s contacts or if they found evidence that Pearson and Arnold had traded pornography.

Police haven’t made any more arrests in connection with the investigation, said Kris Mumford, spokeswoman for the Metro Nashville Police Department.

The police department’s forensics team is working to see if more suspects might be identified, she said. Arnold remains in custody at the Nashville Metro Jail.

After charging Arnold, Nashville Police’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit notified Charlotte police that Pearson might be involved in trading pornography, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department release states.

Police received a tip from Nashville that Arnold and Pearson had been “communicating,” said CMPD Detective Aleta Dunbar, the lead investigator on the case.

On Friday, the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation and CMPD investigators seized electronics from Pearson’s home on Picasso Court in Charlotte.

The search warrant was not available and SBI officials were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

CMPD arrest warrants accuse Pearson of possessing movies depicting children in sexual acts with adults.

Pearson did not appear in court Monday for a scheduled first appearance before a judge, when defendants announce their intentions to represent themselves, retain an attorney or ask for a public defender.

He signed paperwork indicating that he has hired a private attorney.

Rock Hill school officials haven’t received word from CMPD if Pearson’s allegations might involve students in Rock Hill, schools spokeswoman Elaine Baker said.

On Monday, Rock Hill Police confiscated two computers from Pearson’s school office for examination, said Lt. Brad Redfearn. They also took an iPod Touch, Baker said.

Rock Hill Police are assisting Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police with the investigation, Redfearn said.

Parents and students were informed about Pearson’s arrest on Friday, Baker said. School officials are available to answer questions from students, but Baker said the bulk of those conversations should be left to parents.

“This is a parent’s conversation,” she said. “What they want their child to know, they’ll let their child know.”

Baker estimated she fielded calls from 10 parents on Friday, many of them asking for more information.

Pearson has worked in the school district for at least 10 years as an educator and administrator. He was named Sullivan’s teacher of the year before becoming an assistant principal.

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082