Triangle community activist accused of raping teen
A Holly Springs man was arrested Friday and charged with multiple sex crimes involving two different girls, according to arrest warrants.
Winslow Howard Thornton Jr., 51, of Vinewood Place, was charged with first-degree statutory sex offense, statutory sex offense with a child and statutory rape of a child.
According to court documents, one girl was under the age of 13 and the other was 15 years old or younger.
The first-degree statutory sex offense occurred with a girl under the age of 13 between Mar. 26 and Sept. 18. The other charges occurred between July 18 and Sept. 18 with a girl who is 15 years old or younger.
According to court documents, a high school counselor contacted police after being approached by one of the girl’s friends. During an interview, the teen said that she had sex with Thornton three to five times over the summer, and that he told her “not to say anything because he would go to jail.”
Documents also said that Thornton engaged in the sexual relations in his “Mancave.”
Thornton was being held in the Wake County Detention Center under a $3 million bond. He made his first court appearance via telephone on Monday afternoon.
Thornton, a community activist and football coach, appeared in a panel discussion as part of the WRAL Documentary “Black and Blue.” He frequently facilitates small group community “rap sessions,” or conversations about race and law enforcement, in his home.
Tru Pettigrew, a community leader, speaker and close friend of Thornton’s, was the moderator of the WRAL panel. On Monday, he said he is devastated by the charges against his friend.
“I feel blindsided, confused and devastated. Just really a range of emotions,” Pettigrew said. “I couldn’t make sense of why this was happening and why it was happening to someone I trusted.”
The Holly Springs police chief said the investigation is ongoing.