Local News

More Victims Expected in Athletic Instructor Sex Case

Posted March 7, 2008 4:16 p.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2008 9:13 p.m. EST

— A former coach at a Sanford athletics facility was in jail Friday on molestation charges, and police said they expect more victims to step forward.

Phillip Thompson, 31, was ordered held in the Lee County Jail on a $1 million bond. Authorities charged him Thursday with 11 counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.

The charges are in connection with allegedly inappropriate touching of 11 girls, ages 6 to 15, at the Sanford Academy of Cheerleading, Martial Arts, Dance and Gymnastics, at 2731 Lee Ave.

"With respect to the children involved, the only thing I'll say is (it was) improper touching," said Capt. David Smith, of the Sanford Police Department.

The alleged offenses occurred between July 2006 and the beginning of this year, when Thompson was fired from the Sanford Academy for reasons unrelated to the case, Smith said.

Police began investigating him three weeks ago, after the parents of one girl filed a complaint against him, Smith said.

"An older sister became aware of what was going on and informed the parent. In turn, parents started talking," he said.

Thompson had taught at Sanford Academy since it opened in early 2006, and he also taught in Apex and was a cheerleader at North Carolina State University. He began working at The Gym Company in Mooresville two weeks ago, and Sanford police arrested him in Iredell County on Thursday.

Marcia McNeill, the owner of The Gym Company, said she did a pre-employment background check on Thompson but found no criminal record.

Sanford police have received complaints from the families of two more students at the school since Thompson's arrest, Smith said.

"Unfortunately, I'm afraid this may be the beginning rather than the end," he said, adding that police had received no complaints from outside of Sanford.

An employee of Sanford Academy said the school wasn't ready to make a statement.

The news of Thompson's arrest startled Beverly Phillips, who had planned to enroll her children in Sanford Academy.

"I have never heard anything bad about the place. I've always heard good about it. It's just hard to believe," Phillips said.