NewsCovering Kentucky


Estill Co. Superintendent Releases More Details Into Alleged Abuse Incident

Posted at 1:21 PM, Apr 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-08 14:13:17-04

ESTILL COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18)- The superintendent of Estill County schools has released a detailed statement regarding the investigation into a teacher and her boyfriend who are charged in connection to inappropriate messages sent to students.

Kentucky State Police say Spanish teacher Sherry Murphy knew that her boyfriend, Torstein Torsteinson, was communicating with an Estill County High School Student for the purpose of having sex.

An investigation revealed that Torsteinson contacted the teen for sex in September 2018, but was unsuccessful. He eventually made contact with the juvenile by having a relationship with Murphy, the school’s Spanish teacher. Police say despite knowing of the contact, Murphy did not report it. Instead, authorities say she deleted messages sent to the student.

Other students also came forward.

Estill County Superintendent Jeff Saylor detailed the school’s investigation in a letter to parents:

Last Monday, April 1, 2019, I received a phone call from an individual who reported that there were some rumors circulating around the community involving a teacher and possible inappropriate interactions with students. I immediately phoned Mr. Winkler and asked him to look into the situation to try to determine if there was any evidence to support an investigation into this matter.

After conducting interviews that afternoon and after school on Monday, Mr. Winkler informed me that there were some concerns expressed by a couple of staff members. He was given the names of students that perhaps might have information about possible inappropriate messaging between a teacher, her boyfriend and the identified students. I met with Mr. Winkler and Mrs. Tucker on Tuesday morning. We discussed a plan of action and opened an investigation.

Mr. Winkler, Mrs. Tucker and Officer Doug Cole began interviews around 11 a.m. on Tuesday morning and wrapped up around 6 p.m. After speaking with the students of concern and their parents, it became apparent that there had been an attempt by an adult male to reach out to these students. Based on evidence gathered during these interviews, the adult male did use social media/text messages to solicit one of the students for inappropriate contact and the teacher was aware of the conversation. Officer Cole called the Kentucky State Police Tuesday afternoon and a Detective was assigned to the case.

KSP arrived at ECHS on Wednesday morning, met with Officer Cole to review evidence in the case and began their own independent investigation. Wednesday afternoon we were informed that KSP had arrested the adult male, Torstein Torsteinson.

After reviewing preliminary evidence in this matter, I scheduled a meeting with Mrs. Sherry Murphy on Wednesday morning. After presenting the evidenced gathered, she was given the opportunity to respond. At the conclusion of the meeting, she tendered her resignation as a teacher at Estill County High School effective immediately. On Thursday afternoon, I was informed that Mrs. Murphy had been arrested by KSP.

The Estill County School District strives to provide a safe and supportive environment for our school community. If anyone knows of a situation that may put the safety of our students or staff at risk, please report it immediately. One of the primary responsibilities we have as an employee of this district is to protect our students and provide a safe school environment, and we take that responsibility very seriously.

Beginning this morning, we will be reaching out to other students that may have been impacted either directly or indirectly by this situation. Our goal will be to provide these students and their parents with the support they will need in the coming weeks or months. The Kentucky State Police has also requested that if there are any other students involved in this situation, please reach out to the school district or call the Richmond State Police Post.

Torsteinson is facing one charge of unlawful transaction with a minor and tampering with physical evidence.

Murphy was arrested and charged with unlawful transaction with a minor, tampering with physical evidence, and failure to report child abuse.