Former USA Olympic gymnastics coach John Geddert was found dead on Thursday, hours after being charged with two dozen crimes including allegations of physically, emotionally and sexually abusing gymnasts he was coaching.
Michigan State Police said in a tweet that the 63-year-old Geddert's body was found by troopers at an interstate highway rest stop with a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Thursday afternoon, according to Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Geddert had agreed to surrender before a 2:15 p.m. arraignment in Eaton County, Michigan, on Thursday but he did not show up. "This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved," Rossman-McKinney said.
Human Trafficking, Sexual Assault Charges Against Geddert
Michigan state officials charged Geddert, who led the U.S. women's gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, with 24 felonies hours before his death. These included 20 counts of human trafficking and forced labor, one count of first-degree sexual assault, one count of second-degree sexual assault, racketeering and lying to a police officer.
According to court documents released on Thursday, among other things, Geddert was accused of "sexual penetration" of a girl under 16 in January 2012.
"John Geddert used force, fraud and coercion against the young athletes that came to him for gymnastics training for financial benefit to him," Nessel told reporters hours before Geddert's body was found.
"The victims 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," she said. "Many of these victims still carry these scars from his behavior to this day."
Ties to Larry Nassar
A lawyer from the Michigan attorney general's office also said Thursday that Geddert knew disgraced Team USA doctor Larry Nassar was sexually abusing patients at the gym where both men worked and lied to police about it during a 2016 investigation into Nassar, who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing 10 minors in a Michigan court in January 2018, and is serving up to 175 years in prison.
Geddert previously owned Twistars USA Gymnastics in Dimondale, Michigan, just outside of Lansing, where dozens of women say they were sexually assaulted by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment. Law enforcement started investigating Geddert in February 2018 in the wake of complaints raised about his abusive coaching style during Nassar's sentencing hearing.
Social Media Suspects Foul Play
Geddert's death sparked a flurry of reactions on social media and although it has been ruled a suicide, conspiracy theorists are suspecting there was foul play involved as they tried to establish a connection to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein's death. Epstein died by suicide in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019. Here are some of the reactions on Twitter: