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Ex-teacher convicted of molestation waives parole hearing

A former Coosa Elementary School music teacher sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2003 for molesting at least nine students has again waved his right to a parole hearing.

Philip Underwood-Sheppard, 51, imprisoned at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, was scheduled to appear via video before the State Board of Paroles and Pardons in Columbia next week but waived the hearing in September, said Peter O'Boyle, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Pardon, Parole and Probation Services.

Sheppard also waived hearings in 2007 and 2008 without explanation, according to court records.

He will not be eligible for another parole hearing until 2011, O'Boyle said. Underwood-Sheppard is projected to be released from prison in December 2015, according to the S.C. Department of Corrections.

Underwood-Sheppard pleaded guilty to molesting at least nine students between the ages of 6 and 13 over several years. He had been a teacher for 17 years before being jailed in April 2002. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2003.

The high-profile case resulted in eight lawsuits from victims against the Beaufort County School District. The district settled seven of them in May 2007 for $4.6 million. Boys & Girls Clubsalso paid $2.4 million to six of those students, who Underwood-Sheppard molested at a club-run after-school program at Coosa Elementary School. The eighth student received a $533,500 settlement from the district in May 2008.

Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said he will not stop fighting to keep the former teacher behind bars.

"He was sentenced to 25 years and his victims should expect that he will have to serve 25 years," Stone said. "I don't believe Philip Underwood-Sheppard should ever be paroled."

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