Charity CEO returns honorary degree over criminal history

The CEO of a prominent western North Carolina charity has returned an honorary degree amid renewed attention to a 1988 child sex offense plea.

Eblen Charities CEO William Murdock tells The Asheville Citizen-Times that he voluntarily returned the University of North Carolina Asheville degree last week. It's the first time a UNC Asheville honorary degree has been returned or rescinded.

Murdock blamed a former Eblen employee with whom he often clashed for the renewed attention. Murdock pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of taking indecent liberties with a 15-year-old girl who had been his student. He maintains they never had a sexual relationship, saying he took the plea agreement to avoid an expensive legal battle and possible felony conviction.

The newspaper couldn't reach the former student or her family.

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Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com