Wake County youth motivational speaker accused of raping teen

HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. (WTVD) -- A 51-year-old Holly Springs youth motivational speaker is facing rape and sex offense charges in two separate cases.

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Winslow Thornton, of the 300 block of Vinewood Place, was arrested September 28 at a friend's house on Lenox Place Circle in Raleigh.

Police say he raped a 15-year-old child. The crimes took place between July and September of 2018, according to Thornton's arrest warrant.

He is also accused of engaging in a sex offense with a 13-year-old child. Police say those incidents also happened this year.

The cases appear unrelated to his work with young people, Holly Springs Police said.

"Nothing in our investigation indicates that Mr. Thornton identified the victims and facilitated the alleged crimes through his mentorships, coaching roles or community activism," Holly Springs Police Chief John A. Herring told ABC11.

Tru Pettigrew is a community leader and motivational speaker who brought Thornton onto his team. Pettigrew is severing ties and said he is distraught by the charges.

"I can't understand it. I can't wrap my head around it," he said. "What is so confusing about this (is) I physically and literally saw the good that came out of the work he was able to do in the community."

Thornton has been charged with two counts of statutory rape of a child less than or equal to 15 years of age, three counts of sex offense of a child less than or equal to 15 years of age, and one count of sex offense of a child younger than 13 years of age.

Pettigrew and Thornton worked together for several years.

"My hope is that it doesn't take away from the good of all of the people that are out there doing such good work that he may have been a part, that he may have participated in," Pettigrew said. "That work still happened and will continue to happen by those people."

Herring said the investigation remains ongoing.

Thornton's attorney asked people to remain fair-minded.

"My client is prepared to defend himself vigorously in this matter," said Thorton's attorney, Patrick Roberts. "I think the important thing is for everybody to keep an open mind."

Thornton being held at the Wake County Detention Center under a $3 million bond.
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