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A Great Mills man received a suspended one-year jail sentence and was ordered to go onto a sexual offender registry in a plea agreement Tuesday to a fourth-degree sexual offense, stemming from his relationship with a teenage student while he was a substitute teacher.

Tyler Austin Shepherd, 27, originally was indicted on a child pornography charge from the investigation arising from his conduct last winter with the girl, who was a student at Chopticon High School when Shepherd was working there.

Shepherd and the girl became “friends” on Facebook, and she complied with his request that she send him a “sexy picture,” according to the plea agreement, before he took her to his home last February and they engaged in sexual relations, which occurred four more times during the weeks that followed.

St. Mary’s Assistant State’s Attorney Julie White said that laws passed by the state legislature make Shepherd’s conduct a crime regardless of the teenage girl’s having reached the age of consent, because of his employment as her teacher.

“When you send your children to school, that’s the one place you’re supposed to believe they will be safe,” White said. “You shouldn’t have to worry about teachers preying on them.”

The girl’s mother said in court that the criminal conduct “basically uprooted my whole family.”

Shepherd apologized to the girl and her family. “I truly regret my actions,” he said.

Kevin McDevitt, Shepherd’s lawyer, said that his client has a bachelor’s degree in economics, and now does remodeling work after losing his job as a substitute teacher. “He was 100 percent cooperative throughout the police investigation,” the lawyer said. “He accepts responsibility for his actions. He makes zero excuses.”

Circuit Judge David W. Densford ordered Shepherd to pay a $1,000 fine during five years of unsupervised probation. “This was a betrayal of trust,” Densford said, and he ordered that Shepherd stay away from the girl and her family. “You should not be at schools, certainly no time soon,” the judge said.

jwharton@somdnews.com