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Grubbs charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor

    Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown spent much of Monday meeting with principals at county schools that have school resource officers from his department in them.

    The meetings were a result of last week’s arrest of an SRO officer, who now stands charged with 12 counts of taking indecent liberties of a minor by a custodian.
     Last Wednesday, October 19, Bedford County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ernest William Grubbs, 47, was arrested by the Virginia State Police on the child sex charges. Grubbs was a school resource officer at Liberty High School at the time of his arrest.
    “We’ve been out front on this as soon as it came to light,” Brown said of the investigation of Grubbs. “We didn’t try to cover up anything.”
    Brown said while the charges involve one deputy in the department, it should not be an indictment on the SRO program or the other 85 employees of the department as a whole.
    He said the other school resource officers are “devastated” by the incident. Brown said he told them to “hold your heads high” and reminded them that they’re doing a good job.
    “We will get through this,” Brown said. “The SROs are held to a higher standard, and they should be.”
    The charges were a shock to the entire department he said: “It absolutely knocked me flat, like someone punched me in the gut.”
    He said everyone makes choices and Grubbs made a “horrific” one.
    “Mr. Grubbs’ alleged action violates the trust that I had in him, the trust that his fellow deputies had in him, but more importantly, it violated the trust the students of the high school had in him,” Brown stated.
    And, Brown said, it serves as a wake-up call for all law enforcement departments. “Don’t think it can’t happen to you, because it can,” he said.
    Grubbs, who was employed by the BCSO from Feb. 2001 and became a SRO in 2004, was well liked. Brown said, like all officers, the SROs undergo psychological and polygraph testing, prior to being hired, to look for any tendencies to help the department from hiring anyone who might commit such acts. If those tests show any indicators, “they go no further,” Brown said, adding the BCSO screening mirrors those of other departments in the area.

The investigation
    Investigators with the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office worked with the Virginia State Police, Child Protective Services, the Bedford County School administration and the victim’s family during this investigation.
    Grubbs’ employment with the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office was terminated last Wednesday.
    The Virginia State Police are conducting the criminal investigation. Roanoke County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office will serve as a special prosecutor for the case.
    Several search warrants were executed as part of the initial investigation, including at Grubbs’s office at Liberty High School.
    That search warrant was looking for communication from Grubbs to students or faculty members and included seizing computers and other equipment.
    According to the search warrant, on Monday, Oct. 17, the parents of a student at Liberty reported to State Police investigators that their 16-year-old child had been involved in an inappropriate relationship with Grubbs. The father of the student had received two text messages from his daughter on Oct. 16 meant, apparently, for Grubbs, the warrant stated. It added that he had spent “extensive time” with their daughter.
    The warrant stated that the girl’s mother had been aware of a “perception” of an inappropriate relationship between Grubbs and her daughter. She searched her daughter’s room, the warrant stated, “and found several typed documents expressing love and intimate feelings, greeting cards which expressed love and intimate feelings, hand written letters expressing love and intimate feelings, and a blue shirt size 2 XL.”
    The warrant went on to state that Grubbs “acknowledged writing, purchasing and copying the items found in the minor’s room” and admitted to having a relationship with the girl “which has gone too far.”
    The warrant stated that there had been sexual contact between Grubbs and the girl, according to the student.
    A search warrant executed at the BCSO listed a cellular telephone that was taken, looking for text messages and other data contained on it. According to the warrant, Grubbs had been told by the girl’s mother to stop having contact with her daughter, but the girl said texting continued between them “every day and at all hours throughout every day.”
    That warrant also stated that the girl revealed she and Grubbs “have engaged in sexual intercourse” at various locations.
    A search warrant was also executed at Grubbs’s home in the 800 block of Randolph Street in Bedford, looking for communications between he and the girl as well as clothing, hair and body fluids. The warrant stated that the girl stated she and Grubbs had engaged in sexual intercourse at the home in several different locations and that she received several gifts from Grubbs including clothing and jewelry.

SRO programs
    The BCSO has school resource officers at the county’s three high schools as well as at Staunton River and Forest middle schools. Sheriff Brown said he wanted to go out Monday and visit with the administrators at those schools to evaluate the SRO program at those schools.
    “I wanted to talk with them personally,” he said of the principals and other administrators.
    Brown said none of them expressed concern with the SRO program and understood the current issue involving Grubbs as an “isolated” incident. Brown also used the opportunity to see if they had any suggestions for improvements to the program.
    “We don’t want this to happen again,” he said.
    Brown said none of the school administrators said they had received contact from parents about concerns with the SRO program. He added that the administrators said they can’t do without the program, which serves as a go-between for the school and the department.
    Grubbs was being held last week in the Blue Ridge Regional Jail in Bedford on $5,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in Bedford County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Nov. 2.