Kent State professor arrested in Akron with 15-year-old in car

Photo courtesy of Kent State University

Matthew Merchant

Updated: Friday, Aug. 28, 2015 4:21 p.m.

Akron Police arrested Kent State professor Willie J. Harrell, Jr. Wednesday night after he met a 15-year-old boy with what police said was the intent to pursue a sexual relationship. Harrell has been charged with importuning and attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, both felonies, and violating adult curfew, according to News Channel 5.

Harrell appeared in Akron Municipal Court Friday morning, and bond was set at $25,000. 

New Channel 5 reported Thursday the 44-year-old English professor was arrested in the parking lot of Smith Elementary School in Akron. Police said Harrell admitted to meeting the boy online earlier in the week, befriending him and then pursuing the relationship further.

According to Channel 5, Akron Police responded to the school parking lot around 11 p.m. after a call of a suspicious vehicle in the area. Police said they found a Ford Explorer with fogged windows and ordered the occupants to vacate the vehicle. They believe a sexual act did not occur.

Kent State University issued this statement Thursday from university spokesperson Eric Mansfield: “University leaders are aware of the arrest, and Professor Harrell has been suspended pending the investigation. He will have no contact with our students, and his courses will be taught by other faculty members.”

According to the Department of English’s website, Harrell, who has been at Kent State since 2003, taught College Writing II this summer and was scheduled to teach the Senior Honors Thesis/Project and Individual Investigation English courses.

Provost Todd Diacon named Harrell the 2014-2015 Provost’s Fellow in July of last year and the 2012-2013 provost faculty associate for African-American, Latino, Asian and Native American (AALANA) faculty recruitment and retention.

Contact Matt Merchant at [email protected].