The Herald Bulletin

April 30, 2013

Elwood coach charged with child seduction

Kessinger suspended without pay

By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin

ELWOOD, Ind. — Elwood High School girls varsity basketball coach Thomas Kessinger, 29, is facing charges after allegedly engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old player.

Kessinger is being charged with child seduction and official misconduct, both Class D felonies, according to Elwood police.

According to a press release issued by city spokesman Jeff Howe, Elwood Community Schools officials have suspended Kessinger without pay and termination will be considered at the next school board meeting Thursday.

Interim Superintendent Tom Austin would not comment and told The Herald Bulletin the matter was in police hands.

Police Chief Sam Hanna said the Indiana Department of Child Services contacted him and Elwood school officials in reference to a complaint over an inappropriate relationship between Kessinger, who is also the middle school instructional assistant in charge of Elwood’s alternative school, and the teenage player.

According to the press release, Austin and Elwood High School Principal David Rutherford confronted Kessinger about the allegations and initially suspended him with pay pending the police investigation.

Hanna said Elwood police began conducting interviews Monday that reportedly confirmed the allegations.

Kessinger turned himself in to authorities Tuesday evening at the Madison County Jail.

Kessinger is no stranger to law enforcement officials.

In 2008, he was arrested on a charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, a Class C misdemeanor, according to public record. That case was dismissed when the officer failed to appear in court.

Then in 2009, he was arrested on a public intoxication charge, a Class B misdemeanor, in Vanderburgh County, according to court documents. He was eligible for the pretrial diversion program in that case.

The program allows a defendant to have charges dismissed if a specific set of requirements is completed.

If convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, according to the Office of Teacher Education Services, any applicant filing for a teacher’s license must provide a written statement of explanation and provide court documents.

According to the Office of Educational Licensing and Development, Kessinger has held a license in physical education since 2008.

He began coaching the Elwood varsity girls basketball team in the fall, ending with a 17-6 record in the second-round sectional game, and had previously served as the boys team’s assistant coach.

Kessinger graduated in 2002 from Elwood Community High School, where he scored 1,204 career points in basketball and finished as Indiana’s third leading scorer his senior season. He later played basketball at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer.

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