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Former WPHS Teacher Faces New Charges

MOUNDSVILLE – A preliminary hearing was continued Monday for a woman convicted of carrying on a sexual relationship for years with an underage student, who now faces new charges of sexually abusing a young child.

Elizabeth Ann Harbert faces charges of first-degree sexual abuse in Marshall County. Police records indicate a 12-year-old child told Harmony House Child Advocacy Center staff that Harbert had fondled him in the shower when he was around 7 years old. The child also alleged Harbert would lounge around the house naked until his father would come home. This allegedly occurred when they lived at 120 N. Highland Ave. in Moundsville and was brought to the attention of Harmony House when talk of the incidents arose in therapy.

Harbert, who is free on $10,000 bond, was represented by attorney Shane Mallett in court. The hearing before Magistrate Mark Kerwood was continued just before its 3 p.m. start time Monday.

Harbert pleaded guilty and was convicted in April 2019 of third-degree sexual assault in Ohio County, after it came to light that Harbert began a sexual relationship in 2005 with Christopher Birch, an incoming freshman at Wheeling Park High School. She had been his teacher and track coach when he was in eighth grade at Bridge Street Middle School. Harbert became pregnant with the first of their four children in 2007 when Birch was 16. Their relationship ended in 2018. Harbert resigned her position as a science teacher at Wheeling Park High School at the start of the 2018-19 school year.

Following her conviction, Harbert was ordered to report to the Northern Regional Correctional Facility in early September 2019. She was sentenced to one to five years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised probation, as well as registering as a sex offender for life.

It was not known Monday when Harbert had been released from prison. Calls to the Wheeling Parole Office went unanswered for several hours. Ohio County Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Turak said she was not aware that Harbert had been up for parole at the time of her release, and that if she had known, she likely would have argued against Harbert’s release.

“We did not get notice of her parole hearing until right beforehand,” Turak said. “I would have objected, but I did not have the opportunity. She was released before we got notification; I have no idea when she was actually released.”

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