Lawrence teacher charged with sex crimes found dead

Gillespie

An R.A. Hubbard High School teacher charged with allegedly having sex with two students in her classroom was found dead of a gunshot wound at her home Saturday morning, according to Lawrence County authorities.

Leslie Buttram Gillespie, 44, of 4890 Lawrence County 170, Hillsboro, was discovered in her backyard with a 9mm pistol near her body, said coroner Scott Norwood. He said the gunshot wound was being investigated as possibly self-inflicted. 

He received a call from Lawrence County 911 at 11:31 a.m., and he pronounced her dead at the scene at 11:58 a.m.

Norwood said Gillespie’s body was sent to the state forensics office in Huntsville for an autopsy because of the criminal investigation that began before the death.

On Thursday, May 27, Gillespie was charged with second-degree rape, second-degree sodomy and two counts of engaging in a sex act with a student under the age of 19, according to Lawrence County Sheriff Max Sanders.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Lawrence County District Court on Friday by Sgt. Wheeler Lovelady, the two teens said they met Gillespie in her classroom after school hours in September and had sex with her there. 

Chief Deputy Tim Sandlin said Gillespie was arrested and brought into the jail by an investigator. She bonded out that Thursday afternoon, Sandlin said.

Lawrence County District Attorney Errek Jett said the bond was set at $60,000, $15,000 on each count.

Jett said the rape and sodomy charges were Class B felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The two underage sex charges were punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The school system had placed Gillespie on administrative leave with pay Thursday while the investigation was underway, according to Superintendent Jon Bret Smith.

Last week, Smith said school system leaders “are conducting an investigation into this matter and will support law enforcement as they do the same. While the district cannot provide any specific details at this time, we want to emphasize that there is nothing more important to Lawrence County Schools than the safety and well-being of our students.”  

He said placing an employee on administrative leave is standard procedure “when allegations and investigations like this occur.”

According to the Lawrence County Schools website, Gillespie taught English at R.A. Hubbard High School in North Courtland. In December 2019, her first year at the school, she was named the school’s teacher of the year for 2019-2020. She was listed as the eighth grade cheerleader sponsor for the Chiefs.

In August 2019, school board minutes show she transferred to R.A. Hubbard from Hazlewood Elementary School in Town Creek.

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