Former student charged with first degree sexual exploitation of a minor


Anna Muckenfuss, Appalachian Weekly News Producer

Correction: A previous version of the article stated that Cromwell was an App State student. Cromwell graduated in May and is not currently enrolled. 

A former App State student was arrested Feb. 26, after Boone Police and Watauga County Sheriff’s Office were notified of a potential incident involving sexual exploitation of minors, according to a press release.

Frank Darrell Cromwell of 359 Old E. King St. was charged with five counts of first degree sexual exploitation of a minor and four counts of felony second degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

Lt. Chris Hatton said one of the victims notified Boone Police of the incident.

“The general consensus was catfishing. He was pretending to be another person through an app on a social media type platform,” Hatton said. “He was getting inappropriate pictures from underage folks by pretending to be someone else.”

Frank Darrell Cromwell was arrested Feb. 26 and charged with five counts of felony first degree sexual exploitation of a minor and four counts of felony second degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

Hatton said the social media platform used was Snapchat.

Hatton wrote in a text message that two victims have come forward, both under 16 years old. Hatton also wrote that Boone Police anticipates identifying more victims as the investigation continues. Hatton said both victims are in their parents’ care.

Cromwell’s assigned court date is March 22, and a Watauga County Magistrate has placed him under $100,000 bond.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Computer Crimes Unit assisted with the investigation due to the digital evidence.

“There were search warrants on two iPhones and a tablet,” Hatton said. “When you’re doing electronic search warrants like that it takes a particular skill set. We have detectives here who are trained for that.”

Hatton said everyone should be mindful of the content they send digitally.

“Some of our young folks especially trust that a screen name and what somebody tells them online is who they really are,” Hatton said. “Many times that is not the case.”

Hatton said the next Coffee with a Cop, an informational meeting series hosted by Boone Police, on June 27 will focus on internet safety.

“For parents that have juveniles, they need to remember that there are people in this world who will target their children, and they need to be mindful of that when they give their kids access to internet use,” Hatton said.