James Brandon Mullis


LEXINGTON — The former head coach of the North Davidson High School boys basketball team has been charged with taking indecent liberties with a 16-year-old student at the school.

Detectives from the Davidson County Sheriff’s office received a tip Monday evening about an inappropriate relationship between James Brandon Mullis, 36, of High Point, and the girl, the sheriff’s office said Wednesday.

Mullis was charged with one count of indecent liberties with a student and attempted third-degree sexual exploitation, according to an arrest warrant. A statement released by the sheriff’s office on Wednesday morning described an alleged relationship that took place between Mullis and a student.

There is a discrepancy between the dates in the arrest warrant and the language in the narrative used in the arrest warrant.

The dates of the offense listed in the warrant — June 26 through July 2 — reflect a time period after his tenure had ended at North Davidson. The narrative alleges he was a teacher and coach at North Davidson when the alleged incident occurred. The sheriff’s office hasn’t returned calls seeking clarification.

Mullis tried to get a photo depicting a girl’s genitalia, according to the warrant.

Mark Hayes, the athletics director at North Davidson, on Wednesday afternoon deferred the Journal’s request for comment to Davidson County Schools. According to Tabitha Broadway, a spokeswoman with the school system, there were no additional incidents involving Mullis during his tenure in the district.

Davidson County Schools released a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying Mullis wasn’t employed with the school system at the time of the alleged incident.

“We only learned of this alleged incident and arrest in the last 24 hours,” said a statement released by Davidson County Schools. “However, to our knowledge, and based on what law enforcement has shared with us, this unfortunate incident did not occur on Davidson County Schools property or while Mr. Mullis was employed with Davidson County Schools.”

Broadway said there is currently no need for an investigation from Davidson County Schools, citing limited information that includes a sheriff’s office press release.

However, that could change.

“We have not been given information that it had occurred while he was employed with us,” Broadway said. “At some point, I’m sure we will get a timeline. But we don’t have it yet.”

In addition to Mullis’ coaching duties, which he held since his hiring in June 2017, Mullis was also an Exceptional Children teacher at North Davidson. He resigned from the school in April to accept the head basketball coaching position at Southwest Guilford High School.

For Themus Fulks, a former standout guard on the North Davidson basketball team in Mullis’ final year when the Black Knights finished 24-6 with a Central Carolina 2-A conference title — their second-best season in school history — the news came as a shock.

And he wasn’t alone awaiting to hear developments on the alleged incident. According to Fulks, he’s exchanged texts with former and current players at high schools in the county.

“(Coach Mullis) taught me a lot of things — honoring your word, people are always watching, doing the right thing even when nobody else is around,” said Fulks, who was a senior averaging more than 35 points per game in Mullis’ final season. “I mean, I never knew anything of the incident.

“I don’t know, I’m just speechless about what happened.”

Detectives executed a search warrant at Mullis’ residence in High Point on Tuesday with the assistance of the High Point Police Department and the State Bureau of Investigation. Detectives said they found evidence linking Mullis to the student.

Michael Hettenbach, the principal at Southwest Guilford, learned of the charges Tuesday evening after being contacted by Guilford County Schools. He told Joe Sirera of the Greensboro News & Record that Mullis’ contract as a teacher has expired and will not be renewed, per human resources. His official start date at Southwest Guilford was in May and lasted through the remainder of the 2018-19 school year.

According to Hettenbach, Mullis underwent a background check conducted by Guilford County Schools before his hiring. He said the results were “crystal clean.”

Hettenbach spoke with North Davidson principal Jonathan Brown prior to Mullis’ hiring. Brindon Christman, the athletics director of Southwest Guilford, was in contact with Hayes as well. Marquice Miller, who oversees the school’s Exceptional Children program, was also involved in the vetting process.

“It’s deeply disappointing that I learned last night that a teacher and coach who recently joined our school staff was charged by law enforcement in another county with two crimes involving an inappropriate relationship with a minor unrelated to our school,” Hettenbach said. “Hopefully, that right there tells you how shocked I was.”

Mullis was arrested at his home. He was being held Wednesday at the Davidson County Jail with his bond set at $50,000. He is scheduled to appear in Davidson District Court on July 29.

“We’re figuring out (details) just like everyone else,” Fulks said. “We just, as a collective group, feel bad for the family.”

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pferlise@wsjournal.com @PatrickFerlise

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