Lacie Pierson, The Charleston Gazette, W.Va.
A former Kanawha County teacher said she was the adult in a situation where she exchanged suggestive photos with a 14-year-old former student, and for that she accepted “full blame for the situation” in court on Tuesday.
Ramsey Bethann Bearse pleaded guilty to one count of possession of material depicting minors in sexually explicit conduct before Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom.
Through tears, Bearse, 29, of Charleston, pleaded guilty by way of information, and she told the judge she accepted that her plea meant facing up to two years in prison, being under the supervision of a probation officer for up to 50 years after her sentence, and registering as a sex offender for the rest of her life.
Bloom scheduled Bearse’s sentencing hearing for Jan. 27. She is currently out of jail on bond.
An information is a way of filing charges against a person. An information usually indicates the defendant has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case.
Bearse told Bloom she “made a mess of things,” and made a mistake when she communicated with a then-14-year-old former student on SnapChat in 2018. At the time, Bearse was a teacher at Andrew Jackson Middle School.
Bearse said she used the app, which provides video and photo messaging, to communicate with some former students, asking how high school was going and if they were enjoying their summers.
When one student asked questions, Bearse said she crossed a line and shared too much of what she was going through — that she had moved from Kentucky to West Virginia, where she had no family or friends, with her husband, who she said was working all the time and was too distracted and overwhelmed with work to pay attention to her.
Bearse said she had felt like she was “completely alone” since she moved to West Virginia. Under her maiden name, Carpenter, Bearse was crowned Miss Kentucky in 2014 in the Miss America beauty pageant.
Bearse accidentally sent the student a “risque photo” she said was meant for her husband.
“From there, [the student] asked me for more, and I panicked,” she said. “I was afraid to not appease him, and when he asked for more, I sent him more photos of me, which led to him sending a photo of his privates.”
Bearse and Kanawha Assistant Prosecutor Meshell Jarrett said Bearse and the student exchanged photos between August and October 2018.
Bearse complimented the student “in a way that made it look like I did want them, because, again, I was afraid to not appease him.”
“Since I am the adult, and he was just a teenager, it is my fault, and I accept full blame for the situation,” Bearse said. “So that’s how I’m guilty of this crime. I messed up big-time.”
Bearse was arrested on Dec. 7, 2018, and charged with four counts of distribution and display to a minor of obscene matter. She waived her preliminary hearing in magistrate court, and her case had been pending at the grand jury stage in circuit court before she pleaded guilty Tuesday.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Kanawha Magistrate Court, one of the student’s parents reported to police they found lewd photos of Bearse on the student’s phone.
On Tuesday, Bearse said she had not saved or distributed any of the photos the student sent her.
Since her arrest, Bearse said she has been diagnosed with depression and been in counseling “to try to figure out why I did this, something so out of character and not typical for me.”
Bearse ended her statement Tuesday by apologizing to her family, her husband and the student.
“I’m so sorry to all the people I hurt and disappointed, including this young man and his family,” she said. “I give my most sincere and deep apology but words don’t do that justice.”
Reach Lacie Pierson at
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