NEW PORT RICHEY — He used the screen name JCUPP01 and wrote unambiguous invitations for sex.
Joel Cupp, then a Trinity Oaks Elementary teacher, thought he was talking online with two girls, ages 13 and 14, authorities say. In chat rooms this summer, he asked them to perform sex acts on him and exposed himself on a Web cam.
But Cupp, 29, was actually conversing with investigators from the Citrus County Sheriff's Office and state Attorney General's Office, who were posing as teenagers. They converged on his Thrush Drive house last week and arrested him on felony charges that could send him to prison for decades. He resigned Thursday from Trinity Oaks, where he worked for two years and earned a reputation as an engaging, caring teacher.
He was released Monday from the Pasco County jail after posting $30,000 bail. He faces three charges of luring or soliciting children to engage in a sex act and a single count of lewd or lascivious exhibition.
A search warrant in the case revealed some details of the explicit chats. One thing stands out: Cupp first asked the girls their ages, then suggested getting together for sex.
In one exchange, he acknowledged that 14 was young and then inquired about the girl's sexual experience.
In another exchange, the 13-year-old asked Cupp what he did for a living. He replied, the warrant says, "elementary school teacher."
The search warrant says Cupp exposed his genitals on the camera. He also sent the girls pictures of himself posing with a manatee at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
When he asked to see pictures of them, they made excuses for why they couldn't send them.
According to the warrant, no concrete meetings were arranged. But Cupp tried.
When the 14-year-old told Cupp she was in Crystal River, she asked him when he wanted to come see her.
JCUPP01 replied "now."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.