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More girls accuse coach

• Jailed coach engaged in rubdowns, recorded them, investigators say

Posted: June 19, 2008 12:26 a.m.
Updated: August 20, 2008 5:03 a.m.

It started with sports massages, investigators say.

That, they say, was Kevin Thomas' way of gaining the trust of high school girls he allegedly sexually assaulted.

The 40-year-old coach, arrested last week for allegedly assaulting a female San Fernando Valley student, was also giving lessons to three girls on the Canyon High School basketball team, a Hart district official said Wednesday.

"We have verified that three Canyon girls were being coached by (Kevin Thomas) at Canyon High, and we are in the process of contacting the parents today," Rochelle Neal said Wednesday. "It sounds like he appeared on our campus in January or February."

Neal is assistant superintendent of human resources and student services for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

The district's own investigation revealed the information about the Canyon High basketball girls Tuesday afternoon, and the names of the students have been provided to the Los Angeles Police Department, which is in charge of the investigation.

Thomas had been coaching the Canyon High football team as a volunteer for the past several weeks, and was reportedly wearing his Canyon coaching uniform when he was arrested June 10.

Van Nuys Sexual Assault Detective John Eum said some incriminating videos were recovered during the arrest.

"He had broken them in half, but we were able to put them back together and view them," Eum said. "Several of the assaults were on (the videos), including one that took place in Santa Clarita."

From viewing the videos and talking to one of the alleged victims, investigators have determined that one of the alleged sexual assaults took place here in either December or January.

"We know (Thomas) spent the night with one particular victim at a hotel in Santa Clarita," Eum said.

Since Thomas was arrested, three more San Fernando Valley students have come forward with accusations similar to the first alleged victim, who is now 19 and a student at a Christian college.

The alleged victims were all receiving private lessons from Thomas at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys when the alleged sexual assaults occurred.

"Three of the students were from Reseda High School and another alleged victim attended the private high school, Montclair Prep, in the Valley," Eum said. "The girls said they had transferred their practices from Birmingham to Canyon for the last two months, although Canyon denies that."

Neal could only confirm that Thomas had been using the Canyon High gym for lessons with the three Canyon girls.

"He was not authorized to use the facility," Neal said. "He is close friends with the Canyon girls basketball coach."

Thomas would allegedly use the ruse that he was giving the girls a massage to improve their athletic performance in order to gain their trust, Eum said.

More important than finding out where Thomas was conducting practices or where alleged assaults may have taken place is finding other victims, he said.

"We know there are more (victims) out there, and we encourage them to come forward," Eum said. "If there are girls in (Santa Clarita) that he has had contact with or who have had any inappropriate contact with Mr. Thomas, they should contact this office.

"They need to know that they did nothing wrong, and that (Thomas) took advantage of them by using his position of authority over them as their coach."

Thomas is being held at Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles, and is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.


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