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Teachers Indicted By Grand Jury

Jill Todd and Elana Harris

By David Howell

 Editor


WATER VALLEY – Two Water Valley School District teachers have been indicted by a grand jury for directing or causing a youth to commit a felony.  Sheriff Lance Humphreys reported Jill Todd and Alana Harris, both of Water Valley, were arrested Monday after allegedly directing or causing a student at Water Valley High School to sell schedule II and Schedule III prescription drugs multiple times.

Todd and Harris were booked in the Yalobusha County Detention Center Monday and released on their own recognizance. 

Humphreys reported the indictments follow a three-week investigation by his department after he first received information about the allegations from a family member of the student. The sheriff’s department was assisted by Assistant District Attorney Steven Jubera during the investigation. 

“On major crimes, often law enforcement agencies will contact me and we work hand-in-hand to gather evidence,” Jubera explained about the probe which included gathering a sizable amount of electronic data.

Jubera also reported that the Desoto County Sheriff’s Department assisted in the case, providing a forensic analyzer to help with gathering phone data. 

“In this particular case there were 250 to 300 pages of text message conversations that the defendants were involved in,” Jubera explained.  “The sheriff put a lot of hours in this, the sheriff’s department did a fantastic job,” Jubera added. 

“It would be fair to say this is classified as a prescription drug abuse case.” Jubera also said about the defendants who were allegedly getting  Adderall, Lortab and other medications from a 16 year-old student at the high school. 

“The two defendants were actually giving the student money to purchase the pills for them,” Humphreys added.

Both Jubera and Humphreys reported that the student is the victim in this case and will not face criminal charges. 

 

“She is not going to be charged. I am treating her the exact same way I would treat a victim of sexual case involving a student and a teacher,” the prosecutor explained. “The big thing in my mind is the power dynamic between these teachers and this particular child.”

“Every thing the student told us from the beginning of the investigation has been verified during the course of examining all of the evidence. Our evidence indicates that the teachers initiated these requests and made continued requests over a two to three week period,” the sheriff added.

Humphreys also reported there has been immense pressure from multiple media outlets to release details about the incident during the investigation. However under Mississippi law, school teachers and law enforcement officers working in the scope of their job can’t have charges filed against them until a probable cause hearing has been held. 

“With the exception that they can be indicted by the grand jury,” Jubera added. “It was my decision to present the case to the grand jury, we were not going to be able to get in front of a judge to have a probable cause hearing before the grand jury met,” he reported, explaining that the grand jury was already scheduled to be in session on October 19.  

“Obviously due to the sensitivity of this case, the District Attorney’s office was heavily involved from the minute this investigation started,” Humphreys said. “Their input was important as we had to decide how soon to notify school officials and how to deal with students during the course of the investigation.”

The sheriff also said the investigation was handled delicately to minimize the disruption of the learning environment at the school.

“We were fully aware that this would affect every student, teacher and administrator at the Water Valley School District. “I didn’t want it to be a distraction for our kids, I didn’t want the kids to suffer,” Humphreys explained. 

Both Humphreys and Jubera also praised the cooperation from school administrators. 

“From the very moment we talked to them, their focus was on the safety and well being of the students,” the sheriff reported. 

“The school officials did everything they needed to do to protect the child and any child that might be wrapped up in it,” Jubera explained, adding that the investigation revealed there was only one student victim. 

Water Valley Superintendent Dr. Michael McInnis also acknowledged the investigation in a statement to the Herald Monday.

“The district has some employees that are under investigation by law enforcement for possible misconduct. The school district is cooperating with law enforcement and will take appropriate actions when the time comes. Being a personnel matter, we cannot comment further,” McInnis said. However a source inside the school told the Herald both teachers resigned Tuesday.

Active Investigation

Even with the indictments, authorities are continuing to gather evidence in the case and have outstanding search warrants from social media companies seeking messages and information that may be stored on their servers, according to Jubera. 

Jubera cited Snapchat, one of the most popular social apps, as one company that has been served a search warrant in connection to the case.  

He also said the parents of the student took all the right steps to help document the details of the case. 

“We had a smart momma who was well aware that a Snapchat message will go away,” he explained, as most messages on the social media app are automatically deleted once they have been viewed or expire.  

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