MARTIN COUNTY — Alton Lee Edwards has worked at Martin County High School since 2013, and during that time he engaged in a “pattern” of soliciting sexually explicit photos and videos of students, according to Martin County Sheriff William Snyder.
Edwards, 27, of Stuart, was charged Dec. 9 with seven counts of solicitation of a minor, sheriff’s officials said.
Sheriff’s investigators learned of Edwards alleged sexual solicitation of students from an anonymous complaint.
He’s been an assistant coach for the Martin County High School boys basketball team and a security guard on the campus. He was a fulltime employee since 2016, but he’s worked part time at the school since 2013 as a freshman assistant coach, according to an arrest affidavit.
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Snyder said investigators have spoken with seven people who Edwards is accused of soliciting sexual photos and videos from when they were underage students at Martin County High School.
Two more people have since come forward to share experiences about Edwards with investigators, Snyder said. He also believes more potential victims are still out there.
“We are now aware of two other victims; we’re not sure if they’ll go through and cooperate,” Snyder said Wednesday. “They are possible victims, but we’re still working with them and their parents to see if we get the cooperation for them to be listed as victims and for (Edwards) to be additionally charged.”
The students who have come forward, he said, are a mix of girls who are former and current students of Martin County High School.
Edwards gained a reputation for soliciting nude photos and explicit videos from students over many years, sheriff’s investigators reported learning from the students.
He’s accused of soliciting nude photos and explicit videos of underage girls in exchange for money.
“It’s safe to say the pattern is that they were female and they appeared vulnerable. He tried to get pictures,” Snyder said. “It didn’t matter to him where he came across them, whether it was as the monitor or as the coach … I think that if these allegations are true, he was a predator.”
One former student who told investigators she was on the Martin County High School girl’s basketball team, said Edwards took advantage of her and manipulated her because he saw that she was insecure and not popular.
“He would manipulate her by telling her that he loved her and he would dream about them getting married, buying a house together, having kids while he was coaching a football team,” an arrest affidavit stated.
But then when their conversations moved to Snapchat, a social media application, Edwards began requesting sexually explicit photos and videos of the former student.
She reported sending him nude photos of herself when she was 16.
She cut off contact with Edwards, records show, because she realized “he was manipulating her and had bad intentions.”
Another student reported hearing from a Snapchat friend that Edwards had a reputation for giving money to girls at the school, which she believed at first was a joke. The student and Edwards became friends on Snapchat and he told her, “if you bless me, I’ll bless you,” which according to the affidavit, she believed to be a request for nude photos from her.
She sent Edwards nude photos and he gave her $300.
The student told Edwards numerous times she was 17, investigators reported.
Edwards engaged in the same conduct with several other students, friending them on Snapchat, sending messages about “blessing” each other, then requesting nudes from the minor girls, arrest records stated.
Snyder said investigators have found no evidence that Edwards shared the sexually explicit photos of the teenagers online or through other message apps.
When sheriff’s investigators interviewed Edwards, he allowed them to search his phone.
An investigator found lewd, sexually explicit videos and images of girls of an undetermined age on Edwards phone next to screenshots of transactions on CashApp, a mobile payment service application, an affidavit stated.
Edwards provided to investigators the name of one girl in the photos and said the pictures were not sent when she was a student at Martin County High School, records show.
Investigators, though, later determined Edwards was lying after interviewing the girl.
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Snyder said if the students would talk openly with their parents, “we would probably know of more victims.”
“And very importantly, had they talked to their parents all along – even those that weren’t involved and knew about it – if they would have told somebody,” he said, “we would have gotten to this years ago and prevented some of these instances from happening.”
Edwards remains on unpaid administrative leave from the school even after he submitted a letter of resignation, said Jennifer DeShazo, a spokesperson for Martin County School District.
“The School Board has to take formal action on his resignation just as the Board would any other employee who resigns, is hired, terminated or goes out on leave,” DeShazo said. “I would anticipate this happening in January since the District will be on winter break after this week. He will remain on unpaid leave and forbidden from being on school property until that time.”
He is being held at Martin County Jail in lieu of $350,000 bond, according to a jail official.