Mother of MSU Gymnast Speaks out on Larry Nassar & Confrontation with Coach

Published: Feb. 16, 2017 at 3:11 PM EST
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On Friday, former Dr. Larry Nassar will appear in Ingham County 55th District Court, with the eyes of the nation watching. Media from across the country are among those expected to pack the courtroom when Nassar's preliminary hearing for a sexual abuse case begins. It involves accusations he molested a young girl in his Holt home. Its just one of the cases against him.

Dr. Larry Nassar worked in Mid-Michigan for more than 20 years, and had access to hundreds of young athletes at USA Gymnastics events, Twistars Gymnastics Club and Michigan State University. That includes a current gymnast on MSU's team who says Nassar abused her hundreds of times over several years.

She's filed to become part of the federal civl suit against him and the university. She remains on the team. Her mother spoke to News 10 to talk about the betrayal she feels as a former friend of Nassar, and the confrontation she had with former MSU Gymnastics Coach Kathie Klages.

People in the Mid-Michigan gymnastics community are tight-knit. So tight, the mother of a gymnast says Larry Nassar was a personal friend. She says he would treat her young daughter's back injuries at his Holt home. News 10 is not identifying her, to protect her daughter's identity. "She would go around 9 o'clock at night and be there sometimes until 11:30, 12 o'clock. I mean there were even times when we would text her and say when are you coming home, you know its getting late."

It may look like a red flag now, but last September when the accusations of sexual abuse first came out, this mother was one of many defending Nassar. "Never in a million years. If you knew Larry you would have never thought, ever that he was doing anything remotely close to this."

Until December, when Nassar was arrested on child pornography charges. Investigators say they found hard drives containing more than 37,000 images of porn, thrown in the trash outside his home. The tide began to turn and this friend started doubting the doctor and asking questions.

Weeks later, in early January, her daughter, an MSU gymnast told her what she didn't want to hear, Nassar used his bare hands to penetrate her during an exam. "When she came out and told us, 'Yes. He did it to me every time I went there, which we're estimating was like over 500 times. That's a lot. I was glad that she had finally told us, but at the same time, I was like so angry and I felt so betrayed by Larry. We just felt fooled."

That night - she says she nervously called MSU's gymnastics coach Kathie Klages. "I told her what was going on and she was like, 'No. Larry would never ever do that. She's just misreading what Larry was doing.' So then the next day she pulled my daughter into her office and told her the same thing. She was misreading what Larry was doing. Ann Emmerich: "So what was she saying he was doing?" Mother: "She thinks this is a legal medical procedure."

The conversation with the coach then turned to Nassar's arrest for child pornography. "She said, ''Well that could have been planted.' and I'm like, 'Kathy, who would have planted that?' I mean literally I said it just like that, she said, 'Somebody that's suing him.' Her daughter, who earned a full-ride gymnastics scholarship to MSU is now among those suing Nassar and the university. Her lawyer represents at least seven other accusers, and the list is growing by the day.

Attorney Jamie White said, "Head coaches, trainers, and we believe other people in the Athletic Department had knowledge that there had been complaints against Dr. Nassar." Ann Emmerich: "How high does that go up?" Jamie White: "I don't know. I don't know. Clearly the head coach for MSU Gymnastics appears to have been put on notice at some period going back some 20 years." The mother said, "I know that she was defending him and we were defending him too, but there comes a certain point when you put all this stuff together and there's no defense for what he's done."

She says the confrontation sparked a distance between her daughter and the coach. Two women, with two very different sides to the Nassar story. "She did tell me that she would trust her daughters and her granddaughters with Larry right now, still."

News 10 reached out to Kathie Klages for her side of the story, but never got a response. We also contacted several medical organizations to try to find a doctor who can give us some perspective on why Nassar would have needed to penetrate during a manipulation on the lower back. As soon as we get a response, we'll bring it to you.

In the meantime, the mother of the gymnast tells us her daughter will not quit the team. She loves the sport too much, and hopes to become a coach someday.

"I think this community should brace itself.  I think Larry Nassar is probably going to be one of the most prolific child molesters in the history of our state, if not our country." -- Attorney Jamie White