On Monday, a Nantahala woman filed three separate temporary civil no-contact orders against fellow community members, after her 15-year-old daughter alleged that an elected official had inappropriate physical contact with her. The family is now claiming they are victims of intimidation.
Melonie Elkins-Howard filed the orders against Macon County Board of Education member Thomas Baldwin, his daughter Melissa Baldwin and Heather Evans. District Court Judge Richlyn Holt issued one of the orders for Melissa, but found no grounds to issue the orders on Thomas Baldwin or Evans.
“One of them met the statutes of 50-C (No-Contact order). The other two did not,” said Holt of the No-Contact orders on Wednesday. “Should anything come out of the investigation then [the plaintiffs] will have to prove that in court.”
According to Elkins-Howard’s mother Paula Cochran, her daughter had contacted Macon County Schools Superintendent Dan Brigman at the beginning of the school year, after she found out that Baldwin was allegedly touching her daughter inappropriately in late 2010 and early 2011. “She was being touched in a way that made her feel uncomfortable,” said Cochran, adding that at the time of the complaint, Brigman was asked to address the issue.
In the ensuing weeks, Cochran explained that nothing had changed.
“At that point we were just wondering why. Why had we not been contacted or updated? We felt like we were getting no help for my granddaughter,” said Cochran, adding that the intimidation arose in the fall.
“My grandchildren’s welfare is in jeopardy, not to mention their education,” said Cochran of her 12- and 15-year-old granddaughters. “In Nantahala School, Tommy is there on a regular basis. He’s not a paid employee but an elected official. His wife works over in the kitchen and [his daughter] Tammy is a teacher and athletic director. If you lived in a school system, and your family is in, do you think you could keep a code of ethics and treat all children fairly?”
“This school is for the children,” continued Cochran. “Not for Tammy or Tommy or anyone else. It’s for the children first and foremost. This has been a long-time thing.”
According to the approved no-contact order, on at least one occasion Baldwin’s daughter Melissa had allegedly visited the plaintiff’s home and work and relayed threats and intimidation to Elkins-Howard.
“On Nov. 26, my house was egged,” read a written statement in the no-contact order. “Missy’s [Baldwin’s daughter] white Jeep Cherokee was the vehicle. On the following Tuesday, Nov. 29, my daughter [name withheld] had a [basketball] game. Missy came to me jumping on me about the accusations being made against her father and stated when she found out who the girl was she was going to get them.”
The statement went on to claim that on another occasion on Dec. 6, Melissa Baldwin waited for Elkins-Howard outside of her front door before she left for work, at which point she reportedly waited on law enforcement to escort her to work.
“She has been going to my daughter’s ball practices that are supposed to be closed practices and sits in front of her while she is trying to practice,” reads the statement. “I do fear what she will try to do to me or my children. I don’t want to even leave them at school.”
“We have received complaints about Baldwin attending a ball game, even after he was asked to stay off of school property during the investigation,” said Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland. “Initially he did stop going, but just went back recently.” In addition, Baldwin attended the School Board meeting last Monday at the Central Office, but did not attend the November board meeting held in Nantahala.
The order states that until the hearing, Melissa Baldwin must not come into contact with Elkins-Howard or her daughter.
According to the no-contact request submitted against Tommy Baldwin, Elkins-Howard alleges that he “continues to intimidate her by coming to the school she is at and attending her ball games. She is wanting to leave her school due to so much intimidation,” said the statement. The order was not approved because the plaintiff has failed to prove grounds for issuance, according to Judge Richlyn Holt, who signed the document.
Elkins-Howard alleges that Evans contacted her over the internet with threats, according to the final no-contact order.
“Heather sent me a message with a direct threat and also posted it,” said Elkins-Howard in a written statement on the order. “She stated she didn’t care to go to jail on Facebook, with my name. I do feel like she is a threat to me and my family.” Enclosed within the order was a printout of the conversation on Facebook.
Although the family did not feel that they were being protected at first, Cochran says that the authorities have since made them feel more safe.
“The Macon County Sheriff’s Office and the sheriff and everyone have showed us great support and concern and we now have legal counsel,” she said.
A hearing will be held before a District Court judge on Dec. 22 at 9:30 a.m. At the hearing, it will be decided whether or not a permanent no-contact order will be issued to Melissa Baldwin. Judge Kristina Earwood will preside.
Baldwin did not want to make a comment concerning the allegations as of press time, and directed any inquiries to his attorney, Zeyland McKinney, who was unavailable as of press time.
Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland maintains that the investigation concerning Tommy Baldwin is ongoing, and urges anyone from the community that has any information regarding the case to step forward.