Gymnastics coach accused of child sex abuse; more victims come forward

Michelle Gallardo Image
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
More alleged sex abuse victims of gymnastics coach come forward
More alleged victims of 21-year-old gymnastics instructor Joseph Hannon, who was charged earlier in December with sexually abusing two girls, have come forward.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- More alleged victims of 21-year-old gymnastics instructor Joseph Hannon, who was charged earlier in December with sexually abusing two 9-year-old girls at the EnerGym Gymnastics in Syacmore, Ill., have come forward.

Parents of the children exposed to the instructor are furious, and some said they have already withdrawn their children from the gym who, by their own admission, said they failed to realize they had hired a convicted felon.

Hannon was first arrested on Dec. 7 and faces up to 60 years in prison if convicted. The accusations against him continue to grow, with five confirmed victims so far. Police said that number could go as high as 30.

"We think that many kids may have been affected, but will it rise or that we'll get charges on 25 victims, that's what we're going to have to determine," said Dep. Chief Jim Winters, Syacmore Police Department.

The abuse was discovered after police said they were contacted by DCFS in November. A little girl had come forward with her story, and so the investigation into Hannon and EnerGym began.

"The abuse was caught on the camera that was installed in the building as part of their security system," Winters said.

According to EnerGym, Hannon worked with them part time beginning in September 2015 before getting hired full time in August 2016. That was around the time Ashley McMullen starting taking her 7-year-old daughter there for gymnastics.

"I had to talk to her and, you know, that's not the-my daughter's seven and so that's not like the kind of conversation you want to have with a 7-year-old. It was very hard," McMullen said.

It turns out Hanon had a criminal record, but EnerGym never performed a background check before hiring him. In a letter sent to parents they state, "After his arrest, we checked our records and learned that a background check had not been performed on him. He was the only adult instructor whose background was not checked against criminal court records."

While facilities such as EnerGym are not legally required to perform background checks, some still believe they should be held accountable.

"The gym needs some sort of punishment. They dropped the ball big time. I think it's ridiculous," McMullen said.

EnerGym is now requiring all coaches to be certified by USA Gymnastics, but that's not enough for some; one victim's family has already filed a lawsuit against the gym. Police are still reviewing tape and interviewing parents, and said they hope to identified most if not all victims within the next week and a half.