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The Elwood Community School Board voted Thursday night to immediately fire the varsity girls basketball coach amidst charges involving a sexual relationship he had with one of his players. The board skipped ahead to the end of their meeting agenda to terminate 29-year-old Thomas Kessinger.
Kessinger was arrested Tuesday afternoon on preliminary charges of Child Seduction and Official Misconduct. Both charges are D felonies.
Court documents obtained by Fox59 said the investigation started with an anonymous call to the Department of Child Services about a 17-year-old girl who was telling friends about her sexual relationship with Kessinger. The comments were made over spring break.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Kessinger and the girl initially denied a sexual relationship. But when police pulled phone records, they found the two had exchanged more than 1,500 text messages between March 30 and April 8 of this year.
“Another classmate witnessed (the victim) send a nude photograph of herself to Thomas,” according to the court documents.
After further questioning, “she advised that they may have had sex 10 to 15 times,” the documents said. The victim also told police the two had sex at the high school, at Kessinger’s parents’ house and in Kessinger’s car.
Kessinger turned himself in to police Tuesday afternoon, and bonded out a short time later.
Kessinger is still remembered in Elwood as a star high school basketball player. His mother works in the local court system. By all accounts, his family is well-liked in the community.
Elwood Police Chief Sam Hanna said his priority was protecting the victim.
“When a child goes to school, a parent should be able to feel safe,” Hanna said. “The child is going to be taken care of, not taken advantage of.”
The Madison County Prosecutor was reviewing case information and formal charges had not been filed as of Thursday night. Despite the lack of formal charges, Superintendent Thomas Austin said the evidence in the case was enough to make the decision to fire Kessinger.
Kessinger has a 2009 public intoxication arrest from Vanderburgh County on his record. Charges were dismissed after he attended a diversion program. Austin said that previous incident did not factor into the decision to fire Kessinger.