WWU employee suspected of videotaping nude players is found dead
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- An assistant basketball coach under investigation for videotaping players while they showered was found dead in a Spokane hotel room, and police say an investigation into his activities has discovered a "huge" amount of evidence and possibly more victims.
Bellingham Police said Wednesday that two men from the semi-professional Bellingham Slam basketball team contacted them last week saying they believed they were video recorded while showering after a game at Seattle Pacific University in late August.
Detectives identified coach Kip Leonetti as the suspect and questioned him.
Western Washington University officials also said Leonetti was a clerical employee at the Wade King Student Recreation Center but did not coach at the university. He was placed on administrative leave from his job there on Sept. 6, after he was interviewed by police.
“It's pretty scary that someone can get to that kind of position and still do those sorts of things,” said sophomore Ashley Leaper at Western Washington University.
Investigators conducted an initial analysis of Leonetti's cellphone and confirmed finding images or videos. A search of Leonetti's residence also turned up nearly 200 pieces of evidence, police say.
Then on Wednesday, the Spokane Police Department notified Bellingham detectives that Leonetti was found dead Monday in a hotel room. Police said he died of an apparent suicide.
“It's kind of creepy. Just because it wasn't here doesn't mean it's not going to happen here or stuff like that hasn't happened here,” said sophomore Tovah Swartz-Ireland of Western Washington University.
Now investigators are trying to determine whether any other victims were videotaped at other locations and whether any of the videos were shared with others or online.
"We recognize the seriousness of these allegations," said Bellingham Police Chief David Doll. “Our department will dedicate all available resources and expertise to identify any potential victims from the evidence we have seized and ensure no further harm is done.”
Doll also said at a news conference that investigators found a "large amount of physical evidence that has to be analyzed ... to determine what we have here." He called it a "huge investigation" covering a "vast scope."
"It's our highest priority to identify any further images that may exist - unlawfully recorded images to determine whether or not those images have been distributed or transferred in any way. And most importantly, to identify any potential victims that may be on those images."
Police would not say whether any of the images were taken at Western Washington University or the Wade King Student Recreation Center.
But other employees at the recreation center said they never noticed Leonetti doing anything suspicious there and that he was a "solid" employee. They expressed "shock and disbelief" at the allegations.
Anyone with information should call Bellingham Police. For Western Washington University students and employees, counselors are on hand to help.