Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Trinity Oaks Elementary teacher arrested in sex chat case

NEW PORT RICHEY — Joel Cupp came to orientation at Trinity Oaks Elementary School on Wednesday to meet his new students and their parents ahead of the school year.

A day later, authorities arrested the 29-year-old teacher on charges he tried to solicit kids for sex over the Internet.

Cupp, of 5848 Thrush Drive, engaged in sexually graphic chats and exposed himself on a Web cam multiple times, all while thinking he was chatting online with young teenage girls, according to the Florida Attorney General's Office.

Posing as a child, an undercover detective with the office's CyberCrime Unit began chatting with Cupp this summer. The office soon discovered an overlapping investigation by the Citrus County Sheriff's Office — authorities say Cupp was engaging in explicit chats with Citrus investigators, too.

The agencies teamed up and on Thursday, with help from New Port Richey police, investigators searched Cupp's home, seized his computer and arrested him.

"He made a full admission to the acts," said Lt. Michael Baute, with the Florida Attorney General's Office.

Baute said he hopes a forensic investigation of Cupp's computer will reveal how long he was engaging in the criminal activity and whether he made contact with any actual kids.

At this point, Baute said, authorities don't know of any children, including any Trinity Oaks students, contacted for sex by Cupp. He would not say what else turned up in the search of Cupp's house.

Trinity Oaks principal Allison Hoskins learned of the investigation Thursday. She said the news was sad and shocking, especially considering the caliber of teacher Cupp had been.

"He had a great personality, and he worked well with students," Hoskins said. "I liked him."

He resigned Thursday. He had been at Trinity Oaks, where he taught third-, fourth- and fifth-graders for two years. Before that he taught at Chasco Elementary in Port Richey.

• • •

Pasco County school superintendent Heather Fiorentino said the school district will send a team of crisis counselors to Trinity Oaks on Monday, the first day of school, to help any students struggling with the news.

"There are a lot of questions to be asked right now. … It's a very confusing time for everyone," Fiorentino said.

Cupp is single with no children, authorities said. His profile on the social networking site Facebook depicts a deeply religious person with interests in pop culture, sports and the outdoors.

On a separate blog, titled Joel's Journeys, Cupp quotes the Bible and describes events in his life through the prism of his faith. In June, he wrote of a busy end to the last school year, saying he had bought a house, found a girlfriend and was missing his students — his "kiddos."

"God is good though, so so good! He has blessed me beyond what I can even fathom," Cupp wrote.

Cupp, who was being booked into the Pasco County jail Thursday evening, faces three counts of luring or soliciting children to engage in a sex act and a single count of lewd or lascivious exhibition. Those charges are for his chats with the Citrus investigators, officials say. More charges are pending from the state investigation.

If convicted of the third-degree felonies now charged, Cupp faces up to 20 years in prison. He has no previous arrests in Florida.

Times staff writer Jeffrey S. Solochek and researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Trinity Oaks Elementary teacher arrested in sex chat case 08/14/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 8:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Former owner of Sirata Beach Resort purchases two Tampa Bay shopping centers

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — After selling the Sirata Beach Resort and Conference in February, Nicklaus of Florida, Inc., has purchased two Tampa Bay shopping centers to diversify the firm's portfolio in the area. Colliers International, representing the sellers, announced the transaction this week.

    Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center, one of Tampa Bay's last family-owned beach hotels, was sold to a Texas-based company, Crescent Real Estate LLC for $108.19 million. [LARA CERRI | Times]
  2. Shania Twain arena tour includes Tampa stop this time

    Blogs

    Shania Twain is coming to Tampa as part of a major U.S. tour in support of her forthcoming (and long-awaited) new album Now.

    Shania Twain will play Amalie Arena in Tampa in 2018.
  3. In one day, fundraisers appear to reach goal to move Confederate monument from downtown Tampa

    Politics

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners gave an ultimatum Wednesday to people who want to move a Confederate monument from downtown Tampa: Raise the money yourselves or it stays. They had 30 days.

    It took 24 hours.

    Private money is flowing in to help move the Memoria in Aeterna Confederate monument from the old county courthouse to a private family cemetery. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Who are the antifa?

    Nation

    On Monday, President Donald Trump capitulated to the popular demand that he distance himself from his comment that "many sides" were to blame in Charlottesville by explicitly denouncing white nationalism. "Racism is evil," he appeared to grudgingly concede, "including the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists."

    A group of counterprotesters who identified themselves as antifa, or anti-fascists, rest Saturday during a rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va. Counterprotesters in Charlottesville came united against white supremacy, but they advocated a wide array of beliefs, tactics and goals. [Edu Bayer | New York Times]
  5. Lucky carrot: Alberta woman finds mother-in-law's lost ring

    Bizarre News

    CAMROSE, Alberta — A Canadian woman who lost her engagement ring 13 years ago while weeding her garden on the family farm is wearing it proudly again after her daughter-in-law pulled it from the ground on a misshapen carrot.

    In an undated photo provided by Iva Harberg, Mary Grams, 84, holds a carrot that grew through her engagement ring in Alberta, Canada. Grams, who lost her diamond ring 13 years ago while pulling weeds in her garden, is wearing it proudly again after her daughter-in-law pulled it from the ground on a misshapen carrot. Grams, 84, said she can't believe the vegetable actually grew through and around the diamond engagement ring she had given up for lost. [Iva Harberg/The Canadian Press via AP]