Ona Elisha Lyn Wilder, 28, 280 Shephard Drive, Bulls Gap, appeared in Hawkins County Criminal Court Friday morning where she pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated statutory rape.
She was originally indicted on two counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, which is a Class B felony punishable by 8-12 years.
Assistant Attorney General Amy Hinkle told Judge John Dugger during the plea hearing that the victim’s parents, as well as the investigating detective, had approved the agreement.
Dugger said, “They don’t want to put the child through a trial.”
As part of the plea agreement, Wilder also accepted the maximum amount of time, four years, for the amended Class D felony charge, which carries a 2-4 year penalty.
Wilder, who has no previous criminal record, also agreed not to seek a judicial diversion, which would allow her to expunge the conviction.
As a result, Wilder will be on the convicted sex offender registry for the rest of her life.
Wilder was also served with a restraining order prohibiting her from contacting the victim or the victim’s parents.
Dugger noted that the amended charge of aggravated statutory rape contains the same elements as the original charges (she was 10 years or more older than the victim), minus the position of trust.
The sexual relationship reportedly occurred on or about March 18, 2017 through April 16, 2017, during which time the student turned 15, and again on or about Oct. 1 through Oct. 10.
Wilder worked at Surgoinsville Middle School, where she was a language arts teacher and cheerleader coach until the end of the 2017-18 school year.
The student was not attending SMS at the time of the sexual relationship. Wilder stated in court Friday that the relationship occurred off school grounds.
Wilder was not rehired at the end of the 2017-18 academic year, but that was not related to the criminal allegations, which arose in late 2018.
The indictments stated that Wilder, who was 26 at the time, engaged in unlawful sexual penetration with the 15-year-old student and “acted intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly with regard to (the student’s) age, and was at the time of the offense in a position of trust.”
The indictment further stated that Wilder used that position of trust “to accomplish sexual contact.”