A former US Olympic gymnastics coach with ties to the disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar killed himself on Thursday, hours after being accused of turning his gym in Michigan into a center for human trafficking by forcing girls to train and then abusing them, authorities say .
John Geddert was to appear in a court in Eaton County, near Lansing. His body was found at a rest stop along Interstate 96, according to state police. No other details were released immediately.
“This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Nessel previously announced that Geddert was charged with two dozen crimes, including sexual assault, human trafficking and running a criminal business. The allegations were the latest drop from the sexual abuse scandal involving Nassar, a former sports doctor at Michigan State University who is now in jail.
Geddert, 63, was the head coach of the US women’s gymnastics team in 2012, which won a gold medal. He was long associated with Nassar, who was the Olympic team doctor and also treated injured gymnasts at Twistars, Geddert’s Lansing area gym.
Among the allegations, Geddert was accused of lying to investigators in 2016 when he denied ever hearing complaints about Nassar. But the bulk of the case against him was about his gym in Dimondale and how he treated the young athletes whose families paid to have them train under him.
The charges against Geddert had “very little to do” with Nassar, said Deputy Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark.
Geddert was accused of using his strong reputation in gymnastics to commit human trafficking by earning money through forced labor among young athletes.
“Victims suffer from untouched eating,” Nessel said, “including bulimia and anorexia, suicide attempts and suicide attempts, excessive physical conditioning, repeated forced to perform even when injured, extreme emotional abuse and physical abuse, including sexual abuse.
“Many of these victims still carry these scars from this behavior to this day,” the justice minister said.
Nessel acknowledged that the case may not fit the common understanding of human trafficking.
“We think of it primarily as affecting people of color or people without the means to protect themselves … but honestly, it can happen to anyone, anywhere,” she said. “Young women who can be alleged can sometimes be exposed and open to human trafficking, regardless of their position in society or the economic well-being of their families.”
Geddert was interrupted by Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics during the Nassar scandal. He told families in 2018 that he retired.
On his LinkedIn page, Geddert described himself as the “most decorated gymnastics coach for gymnastics in Michigan.” He said his Twistars team won 130 club championships.
But Geddert was often portrayed in a flattering way when Nassar’s victims spoke during court proceedings in 2018.
“What a great best friend John was for Larry because he gave him a whole world where he could abuse so easily,” says gymnast Lindsey Lemke. “You two really have a fun sense of friendship. You, John Geddert, also deserve to sit behind bars right next to Larry. ”
Rachael Denhollander, the first gymnast to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault in 2016, said she was proud of the women who marched against Geddert.
So much pain and sorrow for everyone.
To the survivors you have heard and believed, and we stand with you. Thank you for telling the truth. What you have done is important.
Stay safe, you are loved and desired here. https://t.co/7EP9cJ13fa
– Rachael Denhollander (@R_Denhollander) February 25, 2021
“So much pain and sorrow for everyone,” she said on Twitter after Geddert’s death. “To the survivors you have heard and believed, and we stand with you.”