Former USA Olympic gymnastics coach John Geddert died by suicide next to a rest stop dumpster just before he was scheduled to surrender to authorities, according to a new report.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel confirmed Geddert, 63, died by suicide on Feb. 25 hours after a criminal complaint, which included human trafficking, forced labor, and sexual assault charges, had been filed against him in court.
“This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved,” Nessel said in a statement.
Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, told ESPN that they had “no indication” that the coach had planned to flee or hurt himself.
“We had been in contact with his attorney and were assured of his cooperation,” she said.
Geddert is accused of subjecting young gymnasts in his care to forced labor, often making them perform even after they'd had severe injuries, and controlled the athletes through “coercion, intimidation, threats and physical force,” prosecutors said in an earlier statement announcing the charges. In at least one case, prosecutors alleged that he'd sexually assaulted an athlete.
Geddert — who had coached the 2012 USA Gymnastics team known as the Fierce Five — was expected to turn himself in at the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Substation in Delta Township on the afternoon of Feb. 25, just before a scheduled arraignment. However, he never arrived at the sheriff’s office.
A family member tracked his phone using its GPS to locate Geddert at the nearby rest stop after he failed to turn himself in as expected, as heard on a recording of a 911 call obtained by TMZ.
“He’s not in the vehicle,” the distraught woman says as she arrives at the scene. “He’s on the ground by the dumpster.”
For Geddert’s alleged victims, his death ended their chance to have their day in court.
“With the charges coming out, it was like a light at the end of the tunnel that we’re going to get justice, this is coming to an end for us, our healing process will continue,” former Michigan State gymnast Lindsey Lemke told ABC News. She added that learning of his death by suicide was "almost unbelievable at first.”
Lemke, who once trained with Geddert at the Dimondale, Michigan gym he founded, was outspoken about disgraced physician Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse. Prosecutors said Nassar had served as Geddert’s team physician for approximately 20 years.
“We’ll never have closure, we’ll never have answers, we’ll never get to see him convicted,” she said of Geddert's death.
Lemke told the news outlet that while training with Geddert at his Twistars gym, the coach once hit her with a mat after she tripped and fell into a vault apparatus.
“He had a temper that he couldn’t control, and he wanted to instill fear in kids,” she said.
Another of Geddert’s former gymnasts, Sarah Klein, told ESPN that the news of his death was “traumatizing beyond words.”
“He tortured and abused little girls, myself included, for more than 30 years and was able to cheat justice,” Klein said. “Geddert was a narcissistic abuser. His suicide is an admission of guilt that the entire world can now see.”
USA Gymnastics said they had hoped the charges would still lead to justice through the legal process.
“With the news of his death by suicide, we share the feelings of shock, and our thoughts are with the gymnastics community as they grapple with the complex emotions of today’s events,” the organization said in a statement.
But for some, this is simply not enough. After the news of Geddert’s death, Gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman called for an independent investigation into USA Gymnastics.
“Monsters don’t thrive for decades without the help of people,” she told CNN. “And we need to understand what happened, how this happened. We need a fully independent investigation. And there has not been one.”
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