High school coach pleads guilty in child sex abuse case

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A former high school teacher and wrestling coach charged with sexually abusing a female student faces at least six years in prison after pleading guilty Friday to six felony counts. (WPVI)

A former high school teacher and wrestling coach charged with sexually abusing a female student faces at least six years in prison after pleading guilty Friday to six felony counts.

Richard "Dickie" Howell II pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual abuse of a child by a person in a position of trust, a felony that carries a minimum mandatory sentence of two years in prison.

He also pleaded guilty to three counts of fourth-degree rape, a felony that carries no mandatory prison time.

Howell, who faces a maximum sentence of 120 years in prison, was immediately taken into custody pending sentencing April 26.

Howell, 51, showed no emotion during the brief plea hearing, answering the judge's questions in a subdued voice.

Prosecutor Kathy Dickerson and defense attorney Alexander Funk declined to comment after the hearing.

Howell was arrested in January 2015 after a 17-year-old student at Caesar Rodney High School reported that he had sex with her over several months in 2014, including encounters at school and his home. Investigators reportedly found graphic photos and videos of Howell on the girl's cell phone.

Howell was later indicted on 50 felony counts of sexual abuse of a child by a person in a position of trust and sexual solicitation of a child. The remaining charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

His trial, which was repeatedly postponed, had been scheduled to begin March 8.

Howell served as wrestling coach at Caesar Rodney since being hired 1991. He led the wrestling team to eight state championships, including five consecutive titles from 2003 to 2007.

His brother Kurt, who was in the courtroom Friday, is also a wrestling coach, leading Smyrna High School earlier this month to its fourth straight state championship, including title wins over Dickie Howell's teams in 2013 and 2014.

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