Three New Hope High School students have been charged with statutory rape in a case involving at least two alleged victims.
Javonte Lashad Ellis, 17, of 269 Florence Harris Road; Brenton Mikael Spann, 18, of 245 Wilson Dr.; and Tyler Ridge Staples, 18, of 163 Ben Christopher Road, were each arrested by Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department deputies Thursday afternoon. Spann and Staples were arrested at the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department. Ellis was arrested at New Hope High School, according to authorities.
Staples faces two charges of statutory rape. Spann and Ellis each face one charge of statutory rape.
According to state law, a person who engages in sexual activity with someone under the age of 16 can be convicted of statutory rape.
LCSD Criminal Investigation Division Lt. Tony Cooper told The Dispatch on Saturday there are at least two female victims, one of whom was 14 at the time of the alleged crimes and one whom was 15.
The Dispatch does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes.
Cooper said Staples faces an additional charge of statutory rape because of his age. Staples was at least three years older than both alleged victims.
LCSD was tipped-off to the alleged statutory rapes while going through electronic device evidence from a separate exploitation case.
The investigation is ongoing. There could be more victims and suspects, Cooper said.
Ellis, Spann and Staples each played on the New Hope football team in 2014.
Staples, a safety, signed a letter of intent to play at Holmes Community College in February. He and Ellis are expected to graduate in May and both were identified as honor students in a Dispatch article last January. Spann, a junior, was the top running back for the Trojans football team last season.
New Hope head football coach Kris Pickle declined to comment when reached by The Dispatch on Saturday afternoon.
LCSD will issue a press release regarding the case Monday, according to Cooper.