GREENSBORO — The case against a former employee of a group home accused of sexual assault continued to become more intricate Wednesday as more victims were revealed.
Richard Vernell Heath, 51, returned to court again to appear before a judge. This time, deputies charged him with five additional counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child. Each of those charges carry a life sentence if convicted.
The latest charges stem from an alleged incident involving a 5-year-old boy in the 1980s.
It was just the latest revelation involving Heath and the Center of Progressive Strides, a group home for troubled youth located in northeast Greensboro.
Up until recently, the group home had been owned by Kevin Chandler, a former Greensboro police sergeant, and Deputy Police Chief James Hinson, who abruptly retired last Friday as the charges against Heath began to mount.
For much of its 13-year existence, the group home has operated in anonymity. But that changed in July after the state issued a scathing report that alleged two minors were sexually assaulted by Heath — and that Hinson and Chandler tried to suppress the incident.
On Wednesday, prosecutor Kelly Thompson said investigators realized there may be a third victim based on a statement Chandler made to Guilford County Sheriff’s deputies investigating the claims.
Thompson also revealed in court Wednesday there was a 2014 stalking charge made against Heath that was dismissed in 2018. The alleged victim said it was because he told someone Heath had sexually assaulted him as a child.
The man, who is cooperating with investigators, said Heath began sexually assaulting him in 1989 when he was 5 and the abuse continued until he was 15.
Thompson said in court she has received multiple phone calls from both men and women who claim Heath sexually assaulted them as children in Burlington, where he worked at a church.
Thompson said that includes one woman who said Heath raped her in the 1990s. She added a sixth alleged victim connected to the church called her 10 minutes before Wednesday’s hearing to report her assault.
“There has been both males and females, the allegations seemed to have taken place during activities of the church and their stories have many similarities,” Thompson said.
After the latest charges, Thompson asked Judge Susan Burch to raise Heath’s bail for a third time — to $827,350.
Heath told Burch he wasn’t a flight risk — the only time he spoke during the hearing.
But Thompson told Burch that Heath gave court officials three different addresses and none of them could be verified.
Thompson added that because they didn’t know Heath’s residence, deputies had no choice but to arrest him last week at the N.C. A&T campus radio station, where he volunteered as a DJ.