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May 1, 2013

Elwood school board to decide Kessinger’s fate

Girls varsity basketball coach faces child seduction, official misconduct charges

ELWOOD, Ind. — Elwood High School girls varsity basketball coach Thomas Kessinger has bonded out of the Madison County Jail and will face judgment from the Elwood Community Schools board this evening.

Kessinger, 29, posted a bail bond of $5,000 on Tuesday evening after turning himself in and faces preliminary charges of child seduction and official misconduct, both Class D felonies, after allegedly engaging in an inappropriate relationship with one of his 17-year-old players, according to Elwood police.

The school corporation has suspended him without pay and could terminate him.

New details have also emerged with the release of the probable cause affidavit. It was allegedly during spring break that the female player talked to peers about her sexual relationship with Kessinger and exchanged multiple texts with him, including a nude photo of herself.

She initially told police she wasn’t having a relationship with Kessinger and had only exchanged a few texts with him over break, the affidavit said.

Kessinger allegedly told police he hadn’t even texted her during that time period. When an officer informed him he’d be pulling text message records, Kessinger indicated there may have been 10 or 20 exchanged texts, the affidavit said.

According to the affidavit, police found more than 1,500 texts exchanged between the two in the span of a week; one of which the player told Kessinger to “come [expletive] me” with a response of “I want it.”

After being presented with the text message data, the student then allegedly told police she’d had sex with Kessinger around 10 to 15 times in his car, at his parent’s house and at the high school, the affidavit said.

Kessinger has faced law enforcement before. He was arrested twice previously on misdemeanor alcohol-related charges, according to public records.

According to court documents, Elwood Judge Kyle Noone bonded Kessinger out in a Vanderburgh County incident in 2009 when he was arrested for public intoxication. In that case, he was eligible for the pretrial diversion program that allows a defendant to have charges dismissed if a specific set of requirements is completed.

Noone said he’s friends with Kessinger, whom he’s known for years and played basketball with.

Kessinger’s mother, Denise Kessinger, is a court administrator in Elwood.

Class D felony convictions carry a maximum sentence of three years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine in Indiana.

Child seduction, as defined by Indiana Code, is when a person at least 18 years of age, and in Kessinger’s case is employed by a school district, engages a child at least 16 years of age but less than 18 years of age in sexual intercourse, deviate sexual conduct or any touching with the intent to arouse or satisfy sexual desires.

Official misconduct is committed when a public servant knowingly commits an offense in the performance of his or her official duties.

As of Wednesday afternoon, no Madison County court dates had been set for Kessinger and no formal charges had yet been filed.

Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.

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