Former Florida High School Football Coach and Youth Pastor Charged with 40 Counts of Child Sex Abuse May Have More Victims, Sheriff Says
Former Florida High School Football Coach and Youth Pastor Charged with 40 Counts of Child Sex Abuse May Have More Victims, Police Chief Says
A Florida high school assistant football coach and youth pastor, who has been charged with more than 40 counts of child sex abuse, may have abused more victims, authorities say.
“We have identified an additional eight victims,” Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan tells PEOPLE.
The new victim tally came about after the sheriff’s office held a press conference last week to announce the arrest of 54-year-old Charlie Mabern Hamrick, who is accused of molesting young boys as far back as 1997.
“Anytime he had contact or was in a position that could almost be looked at as a target rich environment for someone of that proclivity, we wanted to make sure our community knew,” says Morgan.
The abuse allegedly occurred while Hamrick worked as a karate instructor, an assistant football coach at Tate High School in Pensacola, and as a Sunday school teacher and youth pastor at two local churches.
“Those are perfect venues if you are of that mindset,” says Morgan. “It is a steady stream of victims. They don’t wear certain clothes and they don’t look a certain way. Pedophiles come in all shapes and sizes.”
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Morgan says he is doubtful more charges will be filed because the statute of limitations has expired on the eight cases.
“We are interviewing those victims and taking their reports and sworn testimony and providing that to the state attorney even though they won’t be filed on to the best of my knowledge,” Morgan says.
One of the alleged victims is a member of the armed services. “He made a call and he is currently on active duty and he passed along to us his contact and what it amounted to,” Morgan says.
Morgan says investigators are also looking into allegations that Hamrick gave unlicensed physical exams to Tate High School football players.
“We have a couple of folks who came forward,” Morgan says. Hamrick, he says, “claimed to be authorized to conduct physicals.”
Escambia County School District Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says Hamrick worked as a volunteer assistant football coach at Tate High School from 2012 to September 2015.
“I guess he had some connection in the community and he wanted to help with the football team,” Thomas tells PEOPLE. “We will hire dozens of people who will help with football teams. Football teams have 100 young boys out there and you need a lot of help to supervise and work with the kids. I believe he was working with either the ninth grade or the junior varsity football team. He was just one of the dozen or so volunteers that were helping the team. You think they are good people and they are doing the right thing.”
Thomas said Hamrick had already resigned his job as an assistant coach when the allegations surfaced. “He started the 2015 year, but left the coaching position as a volunteer in early September,” he says. “He resigned and at that point, we had heard rumors about some financial problems that he might have had and he would eventually be arrested for fraud. So we decided it was time for us to cut our losses. At that point, we had no allegation of any student misconduct.”
Thomas says Hamrick underwent a background check before he taught at the high school. “He went through a background check,” he says. “He was fingerprinted. He passed all of that, but fingerprint and background checks only capture if you have been arrested or caught doing something wrong before. In the case of a person who has deep dark secrets, a background check is not going to find that.”
Police began investigating Hamrick last fall after three victims came forward claiming he allegedly exposed himself and inappropriately touched them while they were riding four-wheelers on his property and fishing in his pond, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
Another victim told police that Hamrick abused him several times when he was between the ages of 8 and 11. The abuse allegedly occurred at Hamrick’s home when his family was there, but they were unaware of the abuse, the paper reports.
Hamrick was charged in March with 40 counts of child abuse including sexual assault on a victim younger than 12, providing obscene material to minors, lewd and lascivious behavior on a victim younger than 12, and lewd and lascivious behavior on a victim age 12 to 16.
“Unfortunately in today’s world, these headlines are happening more and people get off track and do things that are just totally unacceptable and when they do you have to deal with it and there are certain consequences and if these allegations are true he will suffer those consequences as well,” says Thomas.
Hamrick, who is being held on $525,000 bail in Escambia County Jail, is scheduled to be arraigned on April 20. It is unclear if he has retained an attorney.