A Kent State University professor was arrested after he was caught by Akron police in a car with the intent of pursuing a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy he had met online, police said.
Professor Willie Harrell Jr., 44, was arrested Wednesday night in the parking lot of a city school, according to a statement made by Akron police Captain Dan Zampelli to FOX 8.
Zampelli said police received an anonymous tip reporting a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot of Smith Elementary School in Akron shortly before midnight Wednesday.
When the officer approached the Ford Explorer, it was apparent to him that there were people inside the vehicle, Zampelli told the Blade.
“When the officer approached the vehicle, the windows were steamed up and the car was moving, bouncing.”
The officer ordered Harrell and the 15-year-old boy to exit the vehicle. The Kent State professor and the boy emerged from the backseat.
Harrell admitted to police that he had met the boy three days prior online. Harrell said he befriended the boy and they agreed to meet for the purposes of engaging in sexual acts, according to police.
Police believe that no sexual acts occurred between the Kent State professor and the 15-year-old boy when the officer arrived.
The boy was reportedly picked up by Harrell at his home before he was taken to the school parking lot.
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Police had originally consulted with the prosecutor’s office and immediately charged the Kent State professor with adult curfew. In Akron, it is forbidden for an adult to be with anyone under the age of 18 without parental consent, according to Zampelli.
Harrell is now additionally being charged with attempted sexual conduct with a minor and importuning. Both offenses are felonies. He is being held at the Summit County Jail and will be arraigned Friday morning at Akron Municipal court.
Police searched the Kent State professor’s home and confiscated a laptop computer, two desktop computers, and an external hard drive. They plan to investigate whether the Kent State professor had communicated with other minors.
Kent State has suspended the professor with pay and has ordered him to have no contact with students. They released an official statement on the incidence on Thursday.
“University leaders are aware of the arrest, and Professor Harrell has been suspended pending the investigation. He will have no contact with our students, and his courses will be taught by other faculty members.”
According to his Kent State biography, Harrell has his Master of Arts and his Doctor of Philosophy and has taught at Kent State since 2003.
[Images via Kent State University]