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Poplarville teacher/coach charged with statutory rape

A Poplarville coach and teacher was arrested last weekend and charged with the suspected statutory rape of a student.

On Friday, Poplarville Police arrested Poplarville High School head baseball coach and teacher Cedric Earl Smith, 35, of 112 Maria St., Poplarville, for the statutory rape of a 14 year-old female student, according to a release from the department. On Sunday, Smith was brought before Poplarville Municipal Court Judge James H. Breland for a probable cause hearing and initial appearance, the release stated. Breland did find probable cause for Smith’s arrest and bond was set at $30,000.

Poplarville Police Chief Charlie Fazende said the Department of Human Services informed a Poplarville Police Department investigator of the incident. The investigator followed up with a meeting with school officials. When the investigator met with school officials they received information of the alleged incident and arrested Smith.

“The investigation turned up enough probable cause to charge Mr. Smith and that’s what we did,” Fazende said.

If Smith is convicted of the charges, he could face up to 30 years in prison, Fazende said. Smith is out on bond and awaiting a grand jury hearing unless he asks for a preliminary hearing, Fazende said.

The incident is still under investigation so further details could not be released, Fazende said.

“It’s still a little early, and we’re still digging into stuff,” Fazende said.

Poplarville Superintendent Gilda Fitzpatrick declined to comment on the matter.

In Fazende’s nine years at the department, he said he does not recall another incident such as this involving a teacher.

Smith is in his second year as head coach of the Hornets’ baseball team. In his first year, Smith led Poplaville to the Class 4A state playoffs last season.