Barry Gebhart Arraignment Reset To Next Year
The scheduled arraignment for Barry Gebhart, a former Fayetteville athletic director, has been reset for Feb. 18.
Gebhart was set to be arraigned Monday (Dec. 2) before Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green, but that court date has been reset. At arraignments, criminal suspects are read the charges against them and are asked to enter a plea. Suspects customarily enter a not guilty plea, allowing the case to proceed in the court system.
The arraignment was reset to give the Benton County Sheriff’s Office more time to examine Gebhart’s electronic devices such as computers and cellphones in looking for evidence, said Stuart Cearley, deputy prosecuting attorney. Gebhart faces a felony charge of internet stalking of a child, records show. Cearley declined to say whether he will seek additional charges between now and the arraignment date next year.
Gebhart sent his resignation letter to Fayetteville School District administrators three days after being arrested in Rogers on suspicion of seeking a sexual relationship with who he thought was a 14-year-old girl. Vicki Thomas, district superintendent, accepted the athletic director’s resignation letter immediately.
The School Board voted unanimously Nov. 21 to accept Gebhart’s resignation letter, which he turned in to the school district Oct. 25. The item passed 7-0.
Gebhart was driving a sport utility vehicle owned by the Fayetteville School District on Oct. 22 when detectives arrested him in the sex sting operation set up at Pinnacle Hills Promenade mall night, authorities said. Alan Wilbourn.school district spokesman, said the vehicle was given to Gebhart to allow him to travel to sports events around the area.
The arrest involved a month-long investigation by the special cyber crimes task force.
Deputies carried out the sting at outside a Dillard’s store at the mall, investigators said. Gebhart circled the area several times in the SUV, stopping to look through the store windows, before halting the vehicle at a place where he believed he was set to meet with a 14-year-old girl, authorities said. According to investigators, Gebhart connected with the girl through a social media site called Whisper and sent her at least one inappropriate image of himself.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office Cyber Crimes Unit had set up an account pretending to be a teen as part of its efforts to catch local sexual predators, said Keshia Guyll, Benton County Sheriff’s Office public information officer.
When Gebhart stopped his vehicle to get out, deputies surrounded him and arrested him, according to a probable cause report filed in Benton County Circuit Court. Gebhart bonded out of jail the same day on $75,000 bond.
While investigating, detectives said they found many other online messages from Gebhart, including one that was sent to a girl in his class saying he could see up her skirt, according to an arrest report. Gebhart admitted to receiving nude photos, but said when they are of underage girls, he instantly deletes them, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The athletic director told deputies he sometimes uses online networking sites to meet up with women for sexual encounters, authorities said. In one instance, he started talking to an underage girl, but stopped when he found out she was a student in his own school, deputies said.
The sex sting arrest is not the first time Gebhart has come under the attention of local law enforcement. Fayetteville police classified him as a victim in a domestic disturbance with his wife in 2008, according to police records. A police report states Gebhart’s wife “kicked him in the groin” and broke a chair over his arm after she believed he was looking at internet pornography. She was arrested on suspicion of domestic battery, domestic assault and endangering the welfare of a minor.
The couple’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter was at home during the altercation that drew blood from Gebhart, police said.
Gebhart had been the athletic director since 2009. He served as head boys’ basketball coach at Fayetteville High for almost 18 years, from July 1992 to March 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Gebhart’s annual salary was $101,917.72, records show.
The boys’ team won the state championship in 2009 after an undefeated season with Gebhart as head coach.
Gebhart graduated from Fayetteville High in 1981, then received a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Arkansas in 1985 and a master’s in technology from Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa, in 2008.
More than 30 pplications have applied to replace Gebhart as athletic director.
Some applicants for the job include Daryl Patton, Fayetteville head football coach, Kyle Adams, the school’s head basketball coach, and Steve Janski, head football coach at Heber Springs, according to the list of applications obtained by 5NEWS.
Dale Harpenau, head baseball coach at University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, Timothy Miller, Fayetteville High’s assistant football coach, and Byron Zeagler, Fayetteville High School assistant principal, also applied, according to the application list.
Nov. 26 marked the deadline for applications for the open position. The school board is expected to make a decision on the position in the next few weeks, officials said.