Former Elkins teacher found not guilty in sex abuse trial
ELKINS, W.Va. -- A former Elkins Middle School teacher was found not guilty of sexually abusing her former student Thursday night, according to media reports in North Central West Virginia.
Autumn Rae Faulkner, 29, of Beverly was on trial in Randolph County Circuit Court, accused of sexually abusing a student when he was 15. Media outlets say the victim, now 18, testified about the relationship that he says started out intense but fizzled.
The teenager said he had sex with Faulkner several times in the fall of 2008 but ended the relationship after a few months because she wanted to marry him.
Faulkner was facing three felony counts of third-degree sexual assault and three felony counts of sexual abuse by a custodian or person of trust to a child.
The student said he met Faulkner when he was in seventh grade but started communicating with her using MySpace the following school year. When he got a cellphone in the ninth grade, the two started texting -- sometimes as many as 200 times a day, he told special prosecutor Steve Jory. Among the subjects they discussed, he said, were problems Faulkner told him she was having with her husband, Scott.
At one point, the teen testified, "She asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I said her, and she said that she could make that happen.''
He says they first had sex at her home on Dec. 21, 2008, after the boy told his father they were going shopping for a Christmas gift for his mother. It happened two other times, he said, but by late February, she was talking about marriage and he broke it off.
"I was kind of feeling smothered,'' he said.
Defense attorney Rocco Mazzei described the case as a "he said-she said'' situation based on a lot of text messages between a teacher and her former student. The problem, he argued, is that prosecutors lack either physical evidence or witnesses to corroborate the teen's story.
An investigator with the State Police Crimes Against Children Unit said the two texted each other 105 days out of 167 he reviewed.
There have been multiple delays in bringing the case to trial.
A grand jury re-indicted Faulkner in February following two earlier dismissals. In those instances, prosecutors failed to provide evidence to the defense and a member of the grand jury had prior knowledge of the allegations.