North Carolina Principal Accused of Raping 12-Year-Old Student Found Dead in Woods

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
November 20, 2018US News
North Carolina Principal Accused of Raping 12-Year-Old Student Found Dead in Woods
Richard Omar Knight, seen in a file photo, was found dead on Nov. 16, 2018, the day after he was accused of raping a 12-year-old student at Dillard Academy in Goldsboro, N.C. (Screenshot/LinkedIn)

A North Carolina principal under investigation for allegedly raping a 12-year-old student at his charter school was found dead in the woods in a suspected suicide, police said.

Richard Omar Knight allegedly raped the student at Dillard Academy in Goldsboro on Nov. 15, police officers said. He was suspended after a warrant was issued for his arrest for statutory rape, sex act with a student, and indecent liberties with a student.

Knight was wanted by police and the Goldsboro Police Department said on Nov. 16 that officers were looking for him.

On Nov. 19, the department said that officers with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office had found Knight dead in a wooded area in their jurisdiction.

“The victim of an apparent self-inflicted injury,” the department stated. His body was sent to the Office of State Medical Examiner for an autopsy and his family was informed of his death.

richard omar knight mugshot
Richard Omar Knight in an undated file photo. (North Carolina Department of Public Safety)

The sheriff’s office said that two hunters called 911 when they found his body hanging from a tree, reported the News & Observer.

Knight was captured on one of the hunters’ deer cameras at about 12:30 a.m. on Friday, walking alone and appeared to be carrying a blanket.

Officials found his car nearby. They said they don’t suspect foul play.

In an archived page from Dillard Academy’s website, Knight said that he had been an educator at the elementary level for over a decade, including teaching all grades first through eighth. He said he was married and had two children.

“It is my privilege and honor to join the Dillard Academy family for the school year 2016-2017,” he wrote. The “principal” page on the website is currently blank.

‘Devastating Effect’

The rape and subsequent suicide have dealt an enormous blow to Dillard Academy.

“This has had a devastating effect on the school and the school community as a whole,” Hilda Hicks, executive director of the academy, told WRAL.

Hicks started the school in 1998 to help children from low-income families.

“I can safely say this is the most difficult school day that we’ve ever had,” she said.

‘So Shocked’

Relatives of students said they struggled to believe the accusations.

“I’m so shocked I don’t know what to say,” said Patricia Reid, whose grandchildren attend the school. “I spoke to him Thursday. He was a sweet, humble person. And I can’t believe, you know. Shocked.”

School Board Vice Chairman David Simmons said that sympathy for Knight’s family was mixed with the shocking allegations. He said school officials are concerned about the 12-year-old who reported being raped.

“We will be personally reaching out to them, given the opportunity, and tell them I’m sorry for what’s taken place and that we’re here to support them,” Simmons said.

Parents were invited to the campus on Monday to learn more about the situation.

“Making sure they’re doing everything correct and keeping the children safe,” Melody Binford, of Goldsboro, as she picked up her eight-year-old grandson from school Monday, told WNCN. “I’m just concerned for his safety. But, other than that Dillard Academy has been a pretty good school.”

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