Justin Henry was hired at Elite World Gymnastics as a rec coach and eventually became a cheer coach. He was on the job for about a year when fellow coaches say the 21-year-old ruined the trust he had gained in his time there.
"It was a big shot through our heart. It was a big betrayal. We can't even believe that happened," said Andrew Muzzarelli, a gym manager.
Wednesday, Hillsborough County deputies arrested Henry after a Brandon mother said she caught him hiding in her daughter's bedroom closet. According to deputies, the 13-year-old admitted to her mother the two had sex.
"We put a lot of trust in him, and we gave it to him, and he ended up breaking up that trust with us. It's really hard for us right now," Muzzarelli said.
The company was even more surprised to learn that, about three months earlier, police busted Henry with three 14-year-olds. Police reports say the girls had been drinking, and Henry put his hand on one girl's thigh and asked her about being his girlfriend.
"When we first did a background check, he was clean, nothing came up. We do background checks every two years, so anything that would have happened within that year we wouldn't have known about until the next one came up," said Muzzarelli.
According to Muzzarelli, the gym takes precautions against inappropriate interactions on the property, with security cameras in the buildings and parking lots, and a rule that at least two coaches be present around students at the same time.
Authorities say Henry's two offenses took place off-site.
The gym is now meeting with parents to ease their concerns and discuss ways to win back their trust. The company is considering making background checks more frequent, like every year or six months.
"You have to build a trust with the parents and kids. He's kind of ruined that for us, and that's something that we're going to have to build back up," Muzzarelli said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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