BURKE COUNTY, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - A former Burke County elementary school teacher is facing multiple charges after he was caught exchanging graphic images and viewing child pornography with a minor via a social networking website, police said.
Michael Harrison Lowman, 31, of Valdese, NC, has been charged with two counts of second-degree exploitation of a minor and one count of indecent liberties with a child.
Burke County Public Schools learned of Lowman's arrest and the charges against him from the Burke County Sheriff's Office at 8 a.m. Monday. Lowman was a teacher at George Hildebrand Elementary School. He resigned from Burke County Public Schools and surrendered his teaching license around 9 a.m.
BCPS said Lowman's last day as a teacher was Friday, Sept. 15.
It was on Friday, Sept. 15 that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children contacted the NC State Bureau of Investigation Computer Crimes regarding images between what was believed to be a child and an adult man on a social networking and dating app/website.
Authorities said the images were of a graphic nature and depicted juveniles in a state of undress. NCSBI made contact with the Burke County Sheriff's office, which led law enforcement to focusing in on Lowman.
Agents with NCSBI conducted interviews with residents in Lowman's neighborhood, including Lowman himself. During the course of these interviews, probable cause was developed to seize Lowman's cell phone.
NCSBI conducted a polygraph examination with Lowman where he disclosed that he had downloaded and uploaded child pornography on his cell phone. He also admitted that he had taken immoral, improper and/or indecent liberties with minor children for the express purpose of arousing and/or gratifying his sexual desire.
Lowman was arraigned before a Burke County Magistrate where he received a $250,000 secured bond.
Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam issued the following statement:
“I am deeply saddened about the news of this arrest and these charges. Our primary goal is always the safety and wellbeing of our students. The George Hildebrand community is a strong community and they have our full support.
Burke County Public Schools is working closely with local and state law enforcement agencies as this investigation continues. Anyone with information related to the investigation should contact the Burke County Sheriff’s Department.
Burke County Public Schools conducts a thorough background investigation into potential employees during the pre-employment process. If criminal allegations arise during employment we work directly with law enforcement to ensure a thorough investigation. We encourage anyone with suspicions that if they see something, they should say something and report it to administration or those in authority.”