Bill Murdock, head of Eblen Charities in Asheville, N.C., was a school teacher in the 1980s when he was charged with a sex crime involving a teenage student. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge but says he's innocent.

Charity leader retires days after CNN reveals details of sex crime charge

Updated 2:52 PM ET, Fri March 22, 2019

Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds.

Asheville, North Carolina (CNN)The executive director of a prominent North Carolina charity is leaving his post after a CNN investigation this week detailed the account of a 47-year-old woman who says he sexually abused her when she was his teenage student.

Bill Murdock, 63, made the decision to retire from Eblen Charities Thursday, according to a statement issued by the Eblen board. He led the organization, one of western North Carolina's largest non-profits, since its beginning nearly three decades ago.
Murdock also resigned from the board of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College Friday.
He was charged with a felony sex crime in 1988 and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. He maintains he is innocent and says he took the plea deal on the advice of his lawyer, who cited the high cost of a defense and said he couldn't guarantee an acquittal.
After CNN's investigation was published Tuesday, some community leaders in Asheville called for him to resign from Eblen. The story also revealed the dubious and exaggerated achievements Murdock touted that elevated him to a position of power and prestige in this tourist mecca nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
"This feels like a relief," said Shelley Love Baldwin, upon learning of Murdock's departure. Baldwin gave her account of abuse for the first time to CNN. "I feel that justice has been served for the community."
    At the charity office before his announcement to leave, Murdock told a CNN reporter, "My plans are seeing what, what's going to happen with the board and all." The board met Thursday but members refused to speak afterward to CNN. The statement says Murdock would assist in the transition to interim leadership. "The Board expresses its appreciation for Bill's many years of dedicated service to Eblen Charities and the people of Western North Carolina."
    Just last week, the Eblen board issued a statement standing by Murdock. It came after CNN informed the University of North Carolina at Asheville of its findings and the board of trustees rescinded an honorary degree given to Murdock in 2018. Murdock had "proven himself worthy of continued employment," the statement said. "We continue to stand in support of Bill Murdock."
    Eblen board members did not return messages seeking comment on Murdock's retirement or whether he would receive a compensation package.
    The assistant director of Eblen Charities, Susan Riddle, said Friday, "We are all very sad. But we're committed to our clients and the work of Eblen Charities and that's what we are going to do is get back about business."
    Baldwin said Murdock methodically groomed her in the eighth grade and sexually abused her throughout the ninth grade. Two former classmates who read her story on CNN came forward Thursday to support her. They said they observed the close contact with Murdock that Baldwin described and said that they believe her account.
    Baldwin's story also was supported by her family members, a third former classmate and two medical professionals in whom she confided. She and her family gave a vastly different account than the one Murdock has told for years -- that he is innocent despite his plea of guilty to a reduced charge.
    Murdock denies the abuse and some of the family's allegations. He said he could not recall other scenarios the family describes.
    Baldwin's account has resonated throughout much of Asheville, dominating local news coverage and coffee shop conversations.
      Buncombe County Commissioner Amanda Edwards called Murdock's departure "the right thing for the community....He did plead guilty," she said. "And no matter how much time passes ... it doesn't decrease the breach of trust that our community is feeling right now."
      A court document shows Bill Murdock pleaded guilty to misdemeanor liberties with children.
      Murdock's resignation from the A-B Tech board came amid calls for his removal from some of his colleagues. Board member Ron Edgerton said he "sent out a rather tense email to a number of board members telling them that either they do something, or I would through Gov. (Roy) Cooper."
      "The details of the [CNN] report are damning," Edgerton said.
      In his resignation letter to the chairwoman, Murdock called his time on the board "a great honor."
      "I have been thinking for some time about what direction to go regarding the board seat that I currently hold," Murdock wrote, "and have decided to relinquish my seat as I don't want the distractions of the past few weeks to interfere with the tremendous work of the board of trustees and that of the college."
      CNN's investigation showed Murdock earned respect with a resumé built in part on exagge