A man who coached wrestling at West Wilkes Middle School and also worked there as a Daymark Recovery Services counselor this school year has been charged with multiple counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.
Frank Darrell Cromwell, 22, of Boone, was arrested Feb. 26 on five counts of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and four counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor as a result of an investigation by the Boone Police Department and Watauga County Sheriff's Office. The State Bureau of Investigation's Computer Crimes Unit assisted.
Cromwell is charged in four arrest warrants listing 2018 offense dates of Sept. 14, 22 or 23, as well as one warrant listing this past Feb. 19 as an offense date. The arrest warrants were taken out by Det. Jason Reid of the Boone Police Department.
Four of the warrants say Cromwell induced the same 15-year-old male to photograph or videotape himself while he was engaged in sexual activities alone to produce a visual representation of these activities and that Cromwell then solicited and received these images via iMessage. The fifth warrant says Cromwell induced a 16-year-old male to videotape himself while engaged in a sexual activity alone to produce a visual representation depicting this activity.
Search warrants were issued for Cromwell’s apartment on Old East King Street, a Galaxy cell phone, two iPhones, a Surface Pro, various notes, an HP ProBook, three T-mobile phones, two rechargeable batteries and a zip drive.
Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd said by email that the Wilkes County Schools employed Cromwell as a wrestling coach at West Wilkes Middle School for the 2018-2019 school year. He said Cromwell was hired Oct. 15 and was contracted for the wrestling season, which ended the first week of February.
Byrd said Daymark Recovery Services employed Cromwell and assigned him to work at West Wilkes Middle School during the current school year. Under a contract with the Wilkes school board, Daymark provides mental health counseling and therapeutic day treatment services for Wilkes elementary and middle school students.
Daymark Executive Director Billy West said via email that while working for Daymark at West Middle, Cromwell “basically provided supportive counseling, monitoring and supervision, along with other staff, as a team. He was in constant supervision of other staff and was never alone with any children or staff for that matter.”
He continued, “Mr. Cromwell passed all background checks and had positive references and we had no reason to believe there were nor would ever be any concerns.”
West said Cromwell was a Daymark employee the day he was charged, but added that he no longer worked for Daymark nor was in West Middle as of the day company officials learned about the sexual exploitation charges. He said authorities told Daymark about the charges within a day or two after they were filed.
Cromwell’s Facebook page says he studies at Appalachian State and is a day treatment counselor at Daymark and day camp director at Holston Presbytery (of the Presbyterian Church USA) Camp & Retreat Center in Banner Elk.
Watauga County Schools spokesman Garrett Price said via email that Cromwell was assigned to Watauga High School as an internship in athletic training while he was an Appalachian State University student in the 2017-18 school year. Price said Cromwell was never an employee of the Watauga County Schools.
“We were contacted by law enforcement regarding Frank Darrell Cromwell approximately two weeks ago. We are in the process of conducting our own internal investigation,” he added.
In an email, ASU spokesman Megan Hayes said about the matter involving Cromwell, “Appalachian stands ready to assist law enforcement and Watauga County Schools with their investigations.”
First-degree sexual exploitation is the class C felony offense of using, employing, inducing, coercing, encouraging or facilitating a minor to engage in or assist others to engage in sexual activity to produce material with a visual representation of this sexual activity.
Second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor is the class E felony offense of photographing or filming a minor engaged in sexual activity or distributing, transporting, exhibiting, receiving, selling, buying or soliciting material with a visual representation of this sexual activity.
Byrd said the administration of the Wilkes schools “cooperates fully with law enforcement in the investigation (and prosecution, if applicable) of any allegations of misconduct against anyone associated with the Wilkes County Schools. Protecting our students is, as always, our number one priority.”
Cromwell has a court date of March 22.