Reports chronicle sexual abuse between coach, player

Crime Watch

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MALAD — A preliminary hearing in the case of a former Malad High School girls basketball coach accused of sexual misconduct with a player is set for Monday at the Oneida County Courthouse.

Amanda Jo Ward, 36, was arrested in September and charged with sexual abuse of a minor child for having a lesbian relationship for more than a year with a teen-age player she coached. If convicted, Ward faces up to 25 years in prison.

It’s the second time in the past three months that a local female high school coach has been accused of sexually abusing a female high school player.

According to law enforcement reports obtained by the Journal through the Freedom of Information Act, the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office was notified about the alleged sex abuse in May when Ward was terminated as a basketball coach at Malad High School.

The case was turned over to Franklin County authorities because Ward’s mother is a probation officer in Oneida County.

Authorities said that an examination of the cellphones belonging to Ward and the then-15-year-old female victim indicated the two had an unusual mother-daughter relationship — with Ward often being the daughter and the victim being the mother.

The victim slept over at Ward’s house on multiple occasions, authorities said.

Investigators said that early on in the relationship Ward expressed her own emotional distress to the victim after a lesbian affair between Ward and another coach had ended.

The victim then took on the role of the nurturer and comforter, and Ward assumed the daughter role, according to the law enforcement reports obtained by the Journal.

Ward also expressed sadness regarding her relationship with her husband, according to the law enforcement reports.

This past summer, investigators reported that they found no criminal relationship between Ward and the victim. The law enforcement report stated that the victim had been involved in a lesbian relationship with another juvenile and had used marijuana.

However, in September, new evidence surfaced, including a secret email account that was shared by the victim and Ward.

The email account indicated that Ward and the juvenile had continued to see each other in spite of the advice of school district officials that Ward distance herself from the girl. The emails obtained by law enforcement indicated there was sexual contact between Ward and the victim even after Ward was discharged as a coach by the school district.

The emails between Ward and the victim expressed concern over the community and the school district finding out about their relationship.

Franklin County Prosecutor Vic Pearson, who’s handling the case, said that at this point no other victims have come forward.

Ward is now free on a $25,000 bond.

She is the second female high school coach in Southeast Idaho accused of having a sexual relationship with a female high school player in recent months.

In July, a former Blackfoot High School girls soccer coach was charged with multiple counts of lewd conduct in Bannock and Bingham counties.

Alisha Yeates, 27, is facing five felony counts of lewd conduct with a minor in Bingham County and two counts of the same charge in Bannock County.

That case came to light when the now 16-year-old victim disclosed the abuse to a school counselor.

Yeates is currently free on $100,000 bond. Her preliminary hearing in Bingham County is set for Nov. 5, and she will be back in court in Bannock County on Nov. 16.

This story was originally published by the Idaho State Journal. It is used here with permission.