April 25, 2014

Former Walhalla coach pleads guilty to child sex crimes

A former Oconee County wrestling coach and teacher has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to sex crimes involving minors.

Former Walhalla Middle School teacher and Walhalla High School wrestling coach Richard “Trey” Gardner, III pleaded guilty Thursday to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, 16 counts of lewd act on a child and dissemination of obscenity.

Gardner was arrested last year at Pageland Central High School in Chesterfield County. He had worked in Chesterfield County since 2005, but prosecutors mostly focused on his time in Oconee County from 1995 to 2005.

The two victims were student-athletes in the Walhalla school system at that time. Prosecutors showed that Gardner became very close with the two boys and spent a great deal of time with each of them both in school and at his home. Gardner began molesting the boys separately when each was about 13 years old.

In addition to his prison time, Gardner must register as a sex offender.

Gardner’s attorney says his client has expressed remorse and regret for his actions in telephone calls to his victims.