WASHINGTON — Authorities in Charles County, Maryland, say the investigation into a former school aide and track coach accused of sexually assaulting students has uncovered even more young victims.
A 206-count indictment returned against 30-year-old Carlos Deangelo Bell on Oct. 20 now lists a total of 42 victims — almost double the number of victims outlined in a July indictment against the former Benjmain Stoddert Middle School teacher’s aide.
Bell is accused of assaulting the students, who ranged in age from 11 to 17, and of recording some of those assaults on his cellphone over a nearly two-year period between May 2015 and June 2017. Some of the assaults took place on school grounds, according to the indictment. Fourteen victims have still not been identified, according to the latest indictment.
Bell also worked as a track coach at La Plata High School.
The new indictment lists 22 counts of sex abuse of a minor, which carries a 25-year sentence for each instance. The indictment also includes 19 counts of second-degree sex offense related to force and 19 counts related to the age of the victim, which each carry a 20-year maximum penalty. Bell was also indicted on 97 counts of filming child pornography — more than double the number Bell faced in the previous indictment.
In addition, Bell, who is HIV positive, has been charged with five counts of attempting to transfer the virus. Some students have been tested, but the state’s attorney’s office said it is not aware of any victim having tested positive.
Bell’s trial date has been set for Jan. 8, 2018. Charles County State’s Attorney’s Tony Covington has said he intends to seek a life sentence if Bell is convicted on the most serious charges.
In the months since Bell was arrested in June, authorities have cited the painstaking process of combing through Bell’s digital devices for more evidence, and the number of alleged victims has continued to grow.
Bell was removed form his position at the middle school in December 2016 after authorities began investigating inappropriate texts he reportedly sent to a student. But it took Maryland State Police several months to clear through a backlog at its computer forensics lab before the evidence of the assaults was discovered on Bell’s cellphones and he was arrested, authorities have said.
Between the time Bell’s digital devices were seized by police in December 2016 and the time he was arrested in June 2017, Bell is accused of sexually exploiting three children and soliciting a fourth, according to a WTOP analysis of court documents.
In a phone interview with WTOP, Covington praised the work of forensics investigators and said their work was able to pinpoint dates when the alleged assaults took place. But he said staffing and resources at all levels have not kept up with the workload.
“The resources have not kept up with the technology in order to fight crime, so that’s something that needs to be addressed.,” Covington said.
The state’s attorney’s office said the investigation remains ongoing and the Charles County Sheriff’s Office is still trying to identify victims.
“I really urge parents to talk to their kids, because they’re probably not going to come forward voluntarily,” Covington said. “You need to engage them and make sure that they don’t have anything do to with this case or anything else for that matter. We just don’t know if anybody who may have been impacted by this. We don’t know if everybody has come forward. There’s just no way to know.”
WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.