Lakeland, Florida — A gymnastics center is going to run background checks more often on its employees after one of its coaches was accused of having sex with one of his 13-year-old students.
Hillsborough County deputies say 21-year-old gymnastics teacher Justin Henry was found early Wednesday morning, hiding in the closet of one of his 13-year-old students. The girl told investigators she and Henry had sex.
Henry worked for Elite World Gymnastic off of Old Combee Road in Lakeland.
And, this was not the first time Henry has been accused of manipulating children. Just a few months ago, Henry was charged with three counts of interfering with child custody after he allegedly picked up 14-year-old girls he had taught, drove them to Clearwater Beach in the middle of the night, and let them drink alcohol in his car.
"We're all still pretty shocked about the situation," said Andrew Muzzarelli, manager of Elite World Gymnastics.
He said he and his staff at could never see this coming.
A 21-year-old coach faces a charge of sex with a minor in Brandon.
"He was a great coach, no one ever looked at him and suspected this could happen," Muzzarelli said. "It was one of our coaches, but it did not happen in our facility."
But, could this have been prevented?
"No. I think if it was gonna happen it was gonna happen," Muzzarelli said.
Muzzarelli says the gym does background checks on employees when they are hired, and then again every two years. But that's about to change.
"Were planning on doing background checks every six months," he said.
A check like that may have caught Henry's alleged illicit activity sooner after he was arrested and charged with interfering with child custody in May.
Former Elite World student Caitlyn Murdock says the owners were in the dark about Henry's actions.
"They were shocked and had no idea what was occurring," she said. "This is not a bad place. This is not a place where your kids can feel unsafe."
The alleged sexual contact did not happen on gym property, and Muzzarelli says something like that never could.
The gym has a one-student, two-instructor policy where a student will never be alone with a teacher.
Plus, Muzzarelli says there are cameras in every corner of the gym that would catch someone in the act.
He says he has contacted parents about the situation and is holding nothing back.
To find out if you or your children work with a sexual predator, click here.
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