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Former Olympic Gymnastics Coach Found Dead Hours After He Was Charged With Human Trafficking

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WARNING: The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm and abuse

Former USA Gymnastics coach John Geddert was found dead by suicide on Thursday afternoon, less than a day after Michigan prosecutors announced criminal charges of human trafficking and sexual assault against him, Huffington Post reported.

In a Thursday evening statement, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel confirmed Geddert, who was 63 years old, killed himself.

"My office has been notified that the body of John Geddert was found late this afternoon after taking his own life."
"This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved."

That tragic story began decades ago, in 1992.

Geddert founded the Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in Diamondale, Michigan. He coached hundreds of female teenage gymnasts eager to compete on the world stage at the Olympics.

He went on to coach the gold-medal winning 2012 U.S. women's Olympic team. Geddert was known by many to embody a hot-tempered, strict, often physically abusive coaching style.

But in 2018, Geddert faced a new level of scrutiny following the highly publicized trial of Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics team doctor who sexually abused over 500 girls over the course of decades.

During Nassar's trial, which effectively landed him in prison for life, dozens of the doctor's victims read impact statements outlining all Nassar did to them.

Throughout the trial, it became clear Nassar abused many girls in a back room at Twistars gym and Geddert was complicit in a systemic campaign allowing Nassar's physical, sexual and emotional abuse to continue unabated.

Those claims led USA Gymnastics to suspend Geddert. The claims also initiated a separate criminal investigation into allegations Geddert physically abused gymnasts, the Lansing State Journal announced at the time.

That investigation eventually culminated in the 24 charges against Geddert announced less than a day before his suicide.

Those charges included 20 counts of human trafficking of a minor, first-degree criminal sexual assault, second-degree criminal sexual assault involving a minor, and racketeering, the Detroit News reported. Only one charge of lying to an officer directly related to Larry Nassar, however.

The Detroit News went on to report Geddert's body was found at 3:24 pm, about an hour after he was expected to turn himself in to authorities. Following Geddert's death, several of his victims came forward to share their responses to the news.

Survivor Strong, a survivor advocacy group founded by the victims of Larry Nassar, reminded people where this story began.

"While it has been over three years since the first criminal charges were brought against members of USA Gymnastics' staff, many of the survivors still confront the pain of the consequences of their actions daily," the statement reads."
"It is important to understand that today's news neither heals the harm, nor guarantees safety to the people left in the former coach's destructive wake. When people refuse to practice accountability for harm they commit, the community must intervene to prevent further destruction."
"Today's news serves as a reminder that while headlines and documentaries fade from the spotlight, the effects of these abusive and selfish acts will be felt by many for decades to come."

Sarah Klein, who trained under Geddert for 10 years, had this to say, according to Yahoo! Sports:

"John Geddert's escape from justice by committing suicide is traumatizing beyond words. He tortured and abused little girls, myself included, for more than 30 years and was able to cheat justice."
"Geddert was a narcissistic abuser. His suicide is an admission of guilt that the entire world can now see. The bravery of Geddert's many victims will stand for all time in stark contrast to his cowardice. A tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved."

Another survivor of Nassar's abuse, Grace French, acknowledged how difficult it must be for survivors to lack closure in the face of his sudden death.

"Part of my closure was submitting my victim impact statement and hearing the justice system say 'I believe you' through the act of convicting."
"My heart hurts for those who do not get that opportunity. Know I believe you. You are worthy of justice. Whatever that means to you."

Aly Raisman, who won six gold medals on the USA Gymnastics Olympic team, responded by calling for continued work toward justice.


People across Twitter also offered visceral reactions to the news.



With Geddert now deceased and Nassar behind bars, the last place focus will remain is on USA Gymnastics.

Time will tell if the organization can revive the trust of athletes, families, and fans in the wake of so many unsafe years.

*If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/