On Thursday, Former USA Olympic Gymnastics coach John Geddert died by suicide hours after being charged with 24 felonies. The human trafficking charges followed accusations that he abused gymnasts in his care. Police found Geddert’s body at an interstate highway rest stop hours after he was criminally charged in Michigan for his ties to the disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing 10 minors in 2018.
Geddert had agreed to surrender to the sheriff’s office on Thursday afternoon before a scheduled 2:15 p.m. arraignment, but he never showed, ESPN reported. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel called Geddert’s suicide “a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved." A spokesperson for Nessel told ESPN, "We had no indication that Geddert intended to flee or hurt himself or others. We had been in contact with his attorney and were assured of his cooperation." The investigation into his death is “ongoing; no further details will be released at this time,” police said in a statement.
Of the 24 felonies Geddert was charged with, 20 counts were for human trafficking and forced labour; one was for first-degree sexual assault; one was for second-degree sexual assault, racketeering, and lying to a police officer. Geddert, who led the U.S. women's gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, was accused of "sexual penetration" of a girl under 16 in January 2012, according to the complaint. The Michigan Attorney General’s office also said Geddert was aware Nassar was sexually abusing gymnasts, and both men lied to police about it during the 2016 investigation.
Nessel also said that victims of his abuse “suffer from disordered eating, including bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts and self-harm, excessive physical conditioning, repeatedly being forced to perform even when injured, extreme emotional abuse and physical abuse, including sexual assault. Many of these victims still carry these scars from his behavior to this day."
USA Gymnastics came under scrutiny in 2016 as 332 survivors of sexual assault came forward with allegations that they had been abused by Nassar in one of the biggest sexual violence reckonings in sports.
Many athletes spoke out following the news of Geddert’s suicide, including Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, a survivor of Nassar’s abuse who was vocal about her experiences. “Sick to my stomach,” Raisman wrote on Twitter. She added, “Thinking of the survivors out there. Wish there was more I could say to ease the pain & suffering.”
“The bravery of Geddert's many victims will stand for all time in stark contrast to his cowardice,” she said Thursday. “As a survivor and a mother of two young girls, my only comfort is in the knowledge that I can rest my head on the pillow every night knowing that John Geddert will never terrorize and abuse another child."