When former gymnast Sarah Klein first learned that former Olympics coach John Geddert had been charged with human trafficking and sexual assault, she was relieved.
Klein, who trained with Geddert for more than a decade, says the coach “abused me physically, verbally, emotionally and psychologically” beginning in 1988, when I was eight years old. The announcement of the criminal charges Thursday felt like a “full circle moment,” he said.
But shortly after, when Geddert committed suicide, Klein was devastated.
“It is devastating. It’s traumatizing, ”he said in an interview on Friday. But there is no greater admission of guilt than John Geddert committing suicide. It was his last act of narcissistic control that he lived his life with and trained his gymnasts for decades. “
“John Geddert has always been above the law and the rules have never been applied to him,” he added, saying that he believes his final act was “intended to be an insult to his victims.”
Geddert, who lived in Michigan, faced 24 charges that could have led to life in prison had he been convicted. He was supposed to appear in an Eaton County courthouse near Lansing, but his body was found in a rest area along Interstate 96, according to authorities.
“This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Thursday afternoon.
Geddert’s attorney’s office declined to comment on Friday.
The charges were the latest chapter in a sexual abuse scandal that has plagued American gymnastics and largely revolves around Dr. Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University sports doctor who is serving up to 175 years in prison.
Geddert was related to Nassar, who served as an Olympic team doctor and treated injured gymnasts at the former’s gym in the Lansing area.
Klein, 41, who says Nassar sexually assaulted her, said she had been waiting for Geddert to face justice “for a long time.” He said he believes that Nassar and Geddert helped each other for many years.
“There would be no Larry Nassar without John Geddert, and there would have been no John Geddert without Larry Nassar,” said Klein, a Philadelphia attorney representing survivors of sexual abuse.
Geddert had denied knowledge of Nasser’s abuse of the athletes.
The news of Geddert’s suicide was heartbreaking, he said.
“I don’t feel closure at all,” he said, comparing the experience to the feeling that his legs had been cut off.
In the absence of a criminal trial for Geddert, Klein said he hopes USA Gymnastics, the national gymnastics governing body, and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), “will be held accountable.”
“What else has to happen to us for them to say: ‘We’re going to be transparent. We are going to be responsible, and the responsibility for what happened to you under our control was ours and we failed you, ‘”Klein said.
In a statement after Geddert’s death, USA Gymnastics said: “We hoped that the news of the criminal charges being brought against John Geddert would lead to justice through the legal process.
“With the news of her death by suicide, we share feelings of shock and our thoughts go out to the gymnastics community as it grapples with the complex emotions of this week’s events.”
In a separate statement, USOPC Executive Director Sarah Hirshland said: “It is the voices of the survivors that matter most at this time. They continue to show courage and strength in the most difficult circumstances, including today’s events. “
Klein described Geddert as “the worst human being you could imagine.”
“If I had a choice, I would choose the 17 years of almost daily sexual abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar over spending one more day with John Geddert.
“In my opinion, and I believe the opinion of many of Geddert’s gymnasts, what he did to us was much worse and much more traumatizing than having a grown man digitally penetrate you almost on a daily basis,” said Klein. “It broke us psychologically. He hurt us physically. It embarrassed us. It terrified and terrified us in a way that will affect us throughout our lives. “
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 800-273-8255, text HOME at 741741, or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources. The 24-hour toll-free national human trafficking hotline is 1-888-373-7888. Authorities urge those who suspect human trafficking to also contact the local police.