Ex-U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach with ties to Nassar kills himself after being charged

Kim Kozlowski Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

A former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach from the Lansing area with ties to disgraced sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar died from suicide Thursday, hours after Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed human trafficking, sexual assault and racketeering charges against him, the Attorney General's Office confirmed.

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

Geddert's body was found by Michigan State Police troopers at 3:24 p.m. at a rest area off eastbound Interstate 96 in Clinton County, Michigan State Police said. Geddert was expected to turn himself in at 2:15 p.m. to the Eaton County Sheriff Department. 

Michigan State Police will be leading the investigation into Geddert's death, Lt. Mike Shaw said. No other details were released.

The 24 charges against Geddert included 20 counts of human trafficking of a minor, and one count each of first-degree criminal sexual assault, second-degree criminal sexual assault involving a minor, racketeering and lying to a police officer, according to Eaton County District Court records. 

Women's All-Around champion Jordyn Wieber left is shown with her coach John Geddert during the American Cup gymnastics meet at Madison Square Garden in New York, Saturday, March 3, 2012.

Geddert was the fourth person to be charged in connection with the Nassar scandal, though officials say only one charge, an accusation of lying to police in September of 2016, is linked to Nassar. That interview with police took place about two weeks after Rachael Denhollander became the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault.

Geddert, 63, coached the gold medal-winning 2012 U.S. women's gymnastics team at the London Olympics.

He also owned Twistars USA, an elite gymnastics facility near Lansing where multiple victims of Nassar trained and said they were assaulted by the former doctor who worked for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics.

In January 2018, USA Gymnastics suspended Geddert amid the fallout from the Nassar scandal and he transferred ownership of the facility to his wife, Kathryn Geddert.

The criminal investigation of John Geddert began after Nassar was incarcerated in February 2018, leading to the charges that involve fewer than 50 victims, Nessel said during a media briefing Thursday.

"These allegations focus on multiple acts of verbal, physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by the defendant against multiple victims," Nessel said. "I am grateful for these survivors coming forward to cooperate with our investigation and for bravely sharing their stories.” 

Nessel emphasized the crimes alleged against Geddert were a result of his own behavior,which encompassed incidents between 2008 and 2018. The two sexual assault charges against Geddert are alleged to have occurred in January 2012 and involve a reported victim between the ages of 13 and 16.

The only charge against Geddert linked to Nassar was lying to a peace officer. That incident is alleged to have occurred on Sept. 27, 2016, about two weeks after Denhollander first publicly accused Nassar of sexual assault in a story in the Indianapolis Star.

Geddert is alleged to have knowingly given false information to MSU police officer Sam Miller during an investigation, according to the charging documents.

Geddert's lawyer, Chris Bergstrom, could not be reached for comment.

"Geddert's abuse, like so much, was never a secret. EVER," tweeted Denhollander before he was found dead. "In my memoir I wrote about knowing of it even as a club level gymnast in 2000. Because we have to grapple with the reality that it was known, and no one stopped him. It was known, and he was promoted and given more power."

The charges against Geddert came three years after Nassar was sentenced for sexually assaulting women and girls under the guise of medical care over nearly three decades. He was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison in Ingham County on seven sexual assault charges and 40 to 125 years in Eaton County on three sexual assault charges tied to Twistars. He was already serving a 60-year federal sentence for possessing 37,000 images of child pornography

An investigation under Nessel’s predecessor, former Attorney General Bill Schuette, resulted in charges against William Strampel, former MSU dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Nassar’s former boss; Kathie Klages, the former head MSU women's gymnastics coach and former MSU President Lou Anna Simon.

Strampel and Klages served time in jail. Simon was headed for trial in October on charges of lying to police, but a judge dismissed the case after ruling prosecutors didn’t produce enough evidence to bind the case to circuit court. Nessel appealed the dismissal in June.

Days after Nassar went to prison after receiving his third and final sentence, the Eaton County Sheriff Department announced it had launched a criminal investigation following complaints that were lodged against Geddert.

Nessel took over the investigation from Eaton County Prosecutor Doug Lloyd in February 2019.

A year later, in January 2020, Nessel's office with the assistance of Michigan State Police and the Grand Ledge Police Department executed search warrants at Twistars and at an Eaton County home connected to Geddert.

Geddert made one remark about the scandal, saying in a March 2017 statement he had “zero knowledge” of the allegations against Nassar.

California-based attorney John Manly, who represented many of Nassar's victims, hailed Nessel's move to take over the probe at the time. 

"Geddert was a close associate of Nassar’s for decades," said Manly. "Many of our clients reported abuse by Nassar at Geddert’s gym, and also alleged physical and emotional abuse by Geddert as a coach."

Come back to www.detroitnews.com as this story develops.