Former U.S. Olympic gymnastics coach John Geddert died of suicide Thursday, hours after being charged with two dozen crimes based on allegations that he physically, emotionally and sexually abused Turner under his care.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel confirmed that Geddert committed suicide Thursday afternoon and called his death “a tragic end to a tragic story for all concerned.”
Michigan State Police confirmed that Geddert’s body was found at a rest stop on the freeway at 3:24 p.m. ET.
Geddert, 63, was due to be indicted at 2:15 p.m. in Eaton County, Michigan, on Thursday.
“We had no indication that Geddert intended to flee or hurt himself or others. We had contact with his lawyer and were sure of his cooperation,” said Nessel spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney.
Michigan state officials accused Geddert of 24 crimes: 20 cases of human trafficking and forced labor, one case of first degree sexual assault, one case of second degree sexual assault, harassment and lying by a police officer. A Michigan attorney general also said Thursday that Geddert knew disgraced Team USA doctor Larry Nassar sexually assaulted patients at the gym, where both men worked and lied to police during an investigation into Nassar in 2016 .
The rest of the charges against Geddert all have to do with his own behavior towards gymnasts he trained at gyms he owned in Michigan. Law enforcement began investigating Geddert in February 2018 after complaints about his abusive coaching style were made during Nassar’s hearing.
Court documents released Thursday state that in January 2012, among other things, Geddert digitally penetrated a girl between the ages of 13 and 16.
Geddert previously owned Twistars USA Gymnastics in Dimondale, Michigan, just outside Lansing, where dozens of women reported having been sexually assaulted by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment. Geddert and Nassar worked side by side for more than a quarter of a century as both rose to the height of elite gymnastics.
For a long time, Geddert was seen as one of the main sponsors of Nassar in the gymnastics community. As early as the late 1980s, Nassar began sexually assaulting smaller gymnasts on his training table at the Great Lakes Gymnastics Club in Lansing, before he was even a licensed doctor, according to several women.
Sarah Klein, who was trained by Geddert at Great Lakes Gymnastics, is one of the earliest known survivors of Nassar’s sexual abuse. When asked about her reaction to Geddert’s suicide, she said it was “indescribably traumatizing”.
“He has tortured and molested little girls, including me, for more than 30 years and was able to defraud justice,” Klein said. “Geddert was a narcissistic abuser. His suicide is a confession of guilt that the whole world can see now.”
Geddert gained national fame in the early 2000s and was appointed coach of the US national team for the 2012 London Olympics. His role as national coach led him to travel the globe with America’s top gymnasts. Many of these gymnasts, including all members of the famous Fierce Five who won gold in London, say Nassar abused them on her international travels.
Former Olympic champion McKayla Maroney said she was in a car with Geddert on such an international trip in Tokyo during the 2011 World Cup. While driving, Maroney gave a graphic description of Nassar inappropriately touching her during a treatment session the night before, according to several people who overheard her remarks. According to the passengers in the car, Geddert did not react at the time, but has since denied having overheard Maroney’s comments.
USA Gymnastics suspended Geddert during the January 2018 Nassar hearing amid a spate of public complaints from former gymnasts about his abusive coaching style. Geddert announced that he was retiring from coaching days after being suspended by USA Gymnastics. He transferred ownership of Twistars USA to his wife and coaching partner in 2018. The gym was sold to new owners earlier this month.
USA Gymnastics said in a statement late Thursday that news of the charges against Geddert “would lead to justice through the trial.”
“With the news of his suicidal death, we share the feelings of shock and our thoughts are with the gymnastics community grappling with the complex emotions of today’s events,” the organization said.
Geddert was the fifth person to face criminal charges in the Nassar case. Former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny was arrested in 2018 for tampering with evidence. In the state of Michigan, where Nassar worked, former President Lou Anna Simon, former Medical School Dean William Strampel, and former gymnastics coach Kathie Klages have all been charged with crimes. Strampel, Nassar’s former boss, was charged with misconduct in office and willful default and served eight months of a one-year prison sentence before he was released last spring. Klages was found guilty of lying by the police in August 2020 and sentenced to 90 days in prison. The charges of lying to the police against Simon were dismissed in May 2020, but the attorney general’s office is appealing that decision, Nessel said Thursday.
Nassar, 57, is currently serving a 60-year prison sentence for child pornography in a federal prison near Orlando, Florida. For his conviction on state charges in Ingham and Eaton, however, he faces an additional maximum of 175 years in prison in County, Michigan. Nassar appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court earlier this month. Nessel said Thursday that Nassar’s court ruling should stand, describing it as a “fair and just verdict”.
The Nassar hearing attracted international attention as more than 150 women and girls gave testimony in the courtroom about the impact. Many of them said Geddert’s abusive coaching style led them to seek solace from the more docile Nassar, who then used that trust to sexually assault them. Lindsey Hull, who ran under her maiden name Lindsey Lemke in Twistars and in the state of Michigan, said during that hearing that Geddert belonged behind bars with Nassar. On Thursday, she said her first reaction to Geddert’s death was that he “took the easy way out.”
“We can assume that this is because he is guilty and we know he is guilty,” said Hull. “The hardest thing about it is that we will never know. … The amount of work that the AG office had to do over the past three years to finally get to this day, all in vain. The case is considered closed but we will never have an actual ending. “
The Associated Press contributed to this report.