Valdosta State dean stripped of title following child sex sting arrest

Keith Walters

Credit: WTOC-TV

Credit: WTOC-TV

Keith Walters

A dean at Valdosta State University was stripped of his title after he was arrested in a child sex sting, officials said.

Keith Walters, 44, was removed as dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at VSU, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

He is charged with sexual exploitation of children after local and state agencies said he tried to meet someone he believed was a minor for sex, previously reported. He was taken into custody during a four-day sting operation by the GBI.

RELATED: Valdosta State University dean among 14 arrested in child sex sting

University President Richard Carvajal and Provost Bob Smith met with faculty Monday to answer questions about Walters’ arrest, the Daily Times reported.

Carvajal said Walters, who is also a chemistry professor, will remain on paid administrative leave as a faculty member during an investigation, per University System of Georgia policy.

However, because Walters has been removed as dean of the college, that portion of his salary will be eliminated, the Daily Times reported.

James LaPlant will serve as interim dean of the college effective immediately, Smith said.

Carvajal assured faculty that no VSU students or faculty members were involved with Walters’ alleged crimes, according to the Daily Times. He added that he did not know if Walters used any university resources, like computers, to facilitate the alleged activity.

The charges against Walters stem from an operation dubbed “Operation Broken Arrow,” according to GBI spokeswoman Lindsay Marchant. The investigation, which was based in Valdosta but involved nearly 20 agencies, took “several months of planning” and resulted in 14 arrests, she said.

Top row, from left: Wyman Rene Phillips, Justin Na’eem Warren, Bronson Jamari Tripp, John Henry Hursey, Walter Lee Curry. Middle row: Eugene Andega Mainah, Jamian Hogan, Keith Andrew Walters, Dave Vincent Almon. Bottom row: Eric Bernard Copeland, Josue Barranco Trejo, Wilford L. Sermons, Keith Morrison, Billy Stephen  Carter.

Credit: Lowndes County Sheriff's Office

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Credit: Lowndes County Sheriff's Office

Those arrested range in age from 24 to 57. They also include a truck driver, carpenter, electrician, forklift driver and retail manager.

The accused men visited online chat rooms and internet websites, Marchant said. Online, they found people who they believed to be children and began having conversations with them.

The conversations eventually turned sexual, according to investigators.

“In some of these cases, the subject introduced obscene or lewd content, often exposing the minor to pornography or requesting the child to take nude or pornographic images for them,” Marchant said.

Investigators said those arrested traveled from all around South Georgia with the intention of meeting a child for sex.

“Every individual arrested during the operation believed they were going to a location to meet with a child and engage in prearranged sex acts,” Marchant said.

The other men arrested in connection with the investigation were: Dave Vincent Almon, 43; Billy Stephen Carter, 57; Eric Bernard Copeland; Walter Lee Curry, 33; Jamian Hogan, 34; John Henry Hursey, 45; Eugene Andega Mainah, 35; Keith Morrison, 43; Wyman Rene Phillips, 36; Wilford Sermons, 28; Josue Trejo, 31; Bronson Jamari D. Tripp, 24; and Justin Na’eem Warren, 24.

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