By Hank Wiesner/Southern Sentinel
NEW ALBANY – Former Ripley High School teacher Melissa Mathis pled guilty in the Union County Courthouse Wednesday to one count of sexual battery on a minor, in connection with an improper relationship with a former student.
Circuit Judge Robert Elliott sentenced Mrs. Mathis to 15 years, with the first year to be served on house arrest and the balance of the sentence suspended. Following her release from house arrest, she will be placed on five years post-release supervision. She must register as a sex offender, and pay restitution of about $1,500 to Tippah County for investigative costs, according to District Attorney Ben Creekmore.
Members of the victim’s family were present for sentencing.
Sexual battery – a broad statute — is basically defined as inappropriate sexual activity between anyone under the age of 18 and a person in a position of trust over that person.
Mrs. Mathis had been free on bond after being charged with two counts of sexual battery earlier in January, according to Tippah County Jail records. The second charge was dismissed in connection with her guilty plea. She resigned her job before she was arrested.
Said the district attorney late Thursday afternoon: “It is not uncommon for cases that originate in one county to be disposed of in another county, simply because that’s where the judge is to be on that day.
“Sometimes it’s perceived that there’s some other motive behind a case being disposed of in another county. This done at this time because we were not in session in Tippah County, the victim wanted a quick resolution, and we were able to dispose of the case in Union County.”