Crime

Mother says she confronted coach accused of abusing her daughter

Judge Lawrence Bourgeois listens to opening arguments in the teacher-student sex scandal trial of Leslie Danielle DeWitt.
Judge Lawrence Bourgeois listens to opening arguments in the teacher-student sex scandal trial of Leslie Danielle DeWitt. ttisbell@sunherald.com

It is a “case of betrayal,” prosecutor Chris Daniel said in his opening remarks Wednesday to jurors in the teacher-student sex scandal trial of Leslie Danielle DeWitt.

Accused in the sexual abuse of a Hancock High School student, DeWitt is charged with two counts of sexual battery while in a position of trust and three counts of unlawful touching a child for lustful purposes.

She’s accused of having had a sexual relationship with one of her players when she was an assistant basketball coach at Hancock High between Dec. 1, 2009, and July 30, 2010.

In his opening statement, the Hancock County assistant district attorney painted a picture of a trusted family friend, coach and mentor who “repeatedly molested and engaged in sexual acts with a 16-year-old high school student.”

The state’s first witness was the student’s mother.

She said DeWitt began giving her daughter private basketball lessons when her child was in middle school. The two families grew very close over the years, and the mother said she often allowed her daughter to spend the night at DeWitt’s home, where she lived with her husband and young son.

It wasn’t until about 2013 the student’s mother noticed something was wrong. DeWitt had repeatedly called her, practically begging her to allow her daughter to spend the night, she said.

At that same time, school administrators had voiced concern about how close DeWitt had become to the teen, she said.

On Jan. 10, 2013, the girl broke down and told her mother some “very upsetting news.” That same day, the mother received a text message from DeWitt that said, “Should I turn myself in?”

The mother decided to confront DeWitt in person and recorded the conversation. Prosecutors played the recording for the jury, though much of it could not be heard clearly from the public seating area of the courtroom.

On the recording, the mother could be heard asking DeWitt to tell her what happened and to explain why her daughter was having a “nervous breakdown.”

“I did not rape (redacted),” Dewitt said on the recording.

On the recording, DeWitt did not admit to any sexual acts, saying only she had held and cuddled the teen to comfort her.

The defense opted to reserve its opening remarks until after the state rests its case.

The trial resumes Thursday at Hancock County Circuit Court in Bay St. Louis. Judge Larry Bourgeois is presiding.

Wesley Muller: 228-896-2322, @WesleySMuller

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