Thorsby 6th grade teacher arrested on rape charges

Thorsby 6th grade teacher arrested on rape charges

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Jennifer Collins McNeill. Source: Chilton County Sheriff's Office Jennifer Collins McNeill. Source: Chilton County Sheriff's Office
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

The Chilton County Sheriff says a Thorsby 6th grade teacher was arrested in connection to a rape investigation last Friday.

According to Sheriff Kevin Davis, 39-year-old Jennifer Collins McNeill is facing six counts of second degree rape and two counts of second degree sodomy for different incidents with the same victim.

McNeill is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a teenage student under the age of 18. The Chilton County District Attorney says the accuser was not a student at Thorsby, which is a combine K-12th grade school.

Hayden says McNeill taught 6th grade at Thorsby and was also the girls' cheerleading sponsor.

Sheriff Davis says his office began investigating allegations that McNeill was having sex with a student after they got a call from the Department of Human Resources.

"A very good investigation has been done. In my opinion, some very strong evidence has been collected throughout that investigation," Sheriff Davis said.

Thorsby Superintendent Dave Hayden confirms the victim was a student, but officials have not said which school the student attended.

Warrants filed in the case allege McNeill had sex with the minor between April of 2012 and June of 2013. According to the warrant, the minor is younger than 16 but older than 12.

She was arrested on Friday, August 16 on the second degree rape and second degree sodomy charges. Her arrest date was not connected to the school start date, officials said.

McNeill was held on a $160,000 bond in the Chilton County Jail and has since bonded out. She has been placed on administrative leave, according to Superintendent Hayden. He was not sure whether or not her leave will be paid or unpaid.

Sheriff Davis said this is a troubling case.

"I dropped off my 12-year-old this morning for the first day of school like other parents across this county and the state for that matter. I take a certain amount of responsibility for those kids through school resource officers and us trying to keep them protected through that side, but we also entrust, as parents, a lot of trust to teachers and principals and administrators of the school system," Sheriff Davis said.

FOX6 News knocked on the door listed on McNeill's arrest record, but was asked to leave. Her address is one block from the school.

The minor is receiving held from Child Protect of Chilton County, a child advocacy group. While counselors can't and won't discuss this specific case, they did speak today about some of the issues faced by victims in cases like these.

"I think it's really important that they have a good support system and that they attend some counseling services to help them through that and realize there are people out there to help them through a situation that can be very embarrassing sometimes," Jana Zuelzke with Child Protect of Chilton County said.

"They need to realize they were the one who was victimized even if they may have been compliant during whatever was going on," Zuelzke added.

McNeill's first court date has been set for September.

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