HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) A registered sex offender is behind bars Friday after allegedly torturing four young boys in his care who were not related to him or each other.
Sgt. Robert Kegler, spokesman for the Horry County Police Department, said Brentton Matthew Wheeler, 35, of Conway is facing a charge abuse/to inflict great bodily injury upon a child after several instances of abuse were reported at an Horry County middle school.
Horry County Police have not released the name of the school in an effort to protect the identities of the children involved.
Wheeler, a registered sex offender, had accepted four young males under the age of 18 in his care after family members of the children "abandoned them" at Wheeler's home, an arrest warrant obtained by WMBF News stated.
None of the children were related to Wheeler or each other and Family Court was not notified of the incident, Kegler said.
Further investigation revealed Wheeler allegedly tortured the children by forcing them to stand with their arms outstretched and their noses pressed against a wall for hours. The warrant indicated the children were also tormented with a stun gun as well as an air pistol.
"We have to do what we do to protect these kids," Kegler said. "This is a dark, dark case."
One of Wheeler's neighbors, Eleanor Bailey, said she often watched the children play sports in front of her home. The arrest and alleged abuse caught her completely off guard.
"He seemed like a great father, and a really nice man," Bailey explained. "And I feel bad for those kids. They were so polite and well behaved."
Another of Wheeler's neighbors, Billy Simmons, lives across the street and said he witnessed when police surrounded Wheeler's home and removed the children from his care. Simmons said he knew Wheeler was a sex offender by checking the sex offender registry online, but was not aware Wheeler was prohibited from being around children.
"I wondered about that," Simmons remarked. "But I don't know a lot about the law so I didn't question it."
All four children were placed into emergency protective custody and Wheeler was arrested. According to the J. Reuben Long Detention Center's web site, Wheeler posted bond and has been released as of Friday.
According to the Horry County sex offender registry, Wheeler was convicted of non-forcible sodomy in 1996 in Virginia. His victim was said to have been a 17-year-old male.
When asked, Kegler said it is too early in the investigation to tell if Wheeler sexually abused the children.
Kegler said additional arrests and charges are possible as the case remains under investigation by Horry County Police.