Union Co. advocates raise alarm after 2 men accused of sex crimes with minors

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Investigators in Union County charged both a 19-year-old man and a 75-year-old man with sex crimes with minors, and advocates are sharing a warning.

Deputies said the cases are not connected, but Channel 9’s Genevieve Curtis saw that those men had been booked into jail less than an hour apart. She started asking questions and found out investigators are urging everyone to be on alert.

A child advocate told Curtis unfortunately, during the holidays, they often see an increase in child abuse reports. They urged parents to be vigilant but also asked them to talk to their children.

Union County detectives arrested the two men on Wednesday night. Each is accused of sexually assaulting a child.

“This is one of the toughest cases our investigators have to work,” Union County Sheriff’s Office Lt. James Maye told Curtis.

Ethan Howle, 19, of Unionville, was arrested on 20 counts of statutory rape of a child under 15. An hour later, 75-year-old Bradley Powers was arrested in Wesley Chapel for statutory rape of a child under 15 years old. Court records show he was visiting from Massachusetts.

Deputies said in both cases, the victims and suspects knew each other.

Jessie Lindburg is the executive director of Turning Points Treehouse.

“When people come to visit for weeks and weeks over the holidays, we do see an uptick in child abuse disclosures,” she said. “We don’t need to worry about strangers as much as someone a child knows and trust.”

In addition to counseling, Turning Points Treehouse provides a safe place for a forensic psychologist to interview children in these types of cases.

“It’s important for people to know how pervasive this issue is unfortunately,” Lindburg said. “Just over the last year, we saw a 15% increase in the number of kids we saw at the Treehouse.”

She said if you notice a change in your child, ask and empower them to share the truth -- and then believe them.

>> If you or someone you know needs help, this is the number to the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE.

“Making sure they know they can trust you and you will never be angry with them because it’s not their fault,” Lindburg said.

Both Howle and Powers are in the Union County jail. Detectives said the investigations are just beginning, and if anyone has information on either of the men arrested, they ask that you call the sheriff’s office.

Turning Points teaches kids to have a list of five trusted adults they can talk to if they need help, so if the first person doesn’t get them the help they need, they can go to the next until someone listens.

(WATCH BELOW: Alleged sex assault involves high school wrestling team, Catawba County deputies say)

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