LORDSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A former volleyball coach in Lordstown was in court Wednesday, accused of inappropriate contact with players.
Richard Knox pleaded guilty to charges of gross sexual imposition, importuning and pandering obscenity.
Lordstown Schools’ Superintendent Terry Armstrong said the district was made aware of the investigation into Knox on May 5. He said Knox is no longer employed at the district, issuing the following statement:
The district made certain that the Ohio Department of Education Office of Professional Conduct, as this former coach had a pupil activity permit issued through the ODE, was contacted right away. The coach had been non-renewed with other coaches that are on annual basis at the April 2017 meeting of the Lordstown Board of Education and is no longer employed by the district.The board has also fully cooperated with the Lordstown Police Department on the investigation.
During the pendency of the investigation we were not at liberty to disclose any information until either charges were brought or the matter closed. The Lordstown Local School District remains fully committed to the safety and security of our students and we have recently added additional professional development training for all coaches and teaching staff concerning appropriate communication and boundaries with students and student athletes.
Police say Knox admitted to inappropriate behavior with the young girls he coached. Prosecutors said he was soliciting sex from two girls, a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old. They said he had nude sexual images of the girls on his cell phone and touched one of them inappropriately on at least two occasions.
According to court documents, the crimes began last fall, but investigators say it wasn’t until March when the mother of one of the victims approached police about Facebook messages her daughter received from Knox.
“You are put in a position of trust like that and to take advantage of that to exploit young girls is wrong,” said Detective Chris Bordonaro.
Armstrong said this type of crime is one of the worst things that can happen at a school district. The school immediately took action when they were contacted about the investigation.
“That way there is no chance that the coach would go somewhere else. He had already been non-renewed, so he wasn’t really an employee here anymore,” Armstrong said.
The district has since added more professional development training for both teachers and coaches.
Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Gabe Wildman said the Lordstown Police Department did an exhaustive investigation in the case and said any other allegations will be given the same level of dedication.
“If there are more allegations, we would take those seriously, and those need to be reported to the Lordstown Police Department.” Wildman said.
Knox was released on $7,500 bond, but was ordered by the court to stay away from all school functions. A pre-sentence investigation will be conducted. Sentencing is set for a later date. Knox could face 15 years in prison.