CRANFORD, NJ - Thomas Waddell, 54, a former gymnastics coach at Eastern Gymnastics Academy in Cranford, has been arrested and charged with sexually assaulting one of his athletes. The minor, who was under the age of 13 at the time of the alleged assaults, reported being assaulted multiple times in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Waddell, a former resident of Cranford, now lives in Ridgewood. He was arrested at his home without incident last Friday.
The arrest was the result of a nine-month investigation initiated by the Cranford Police Department that jointly involved the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Sheets, who is prosecuting the case.
“The investigation was launched when the victim wrote a letter to the New Jersey State Police describing the crimes committed against her,” Sheets said.
According to the investigation, Waddell was working at the defunct Eastern Gymnastics Academy in Cranford in 1989 when he first started coaching the victim, then a Cranford resident.
Waddell allegedly sexually assaulted the victim multiple times over the course of the next two years, both in multiple private residences and at the Perfect Balance Gymnastics (its name at the time) in Mays Landing, Atlantic County, where he started working in the early 1990s. The investigation also revealed that he gave the victim various pieces of jewelry and other items as gifts, telling her how much he cared for her.
Bail for Waddell was set at $75,000 with no cash allowance, and he was ordered not to contact the victim and to surrender his passport.
Anyone with information about Waddell’s activities is being urged to contact Special Victims Unit Detective Brian O'Malley at 908-220-4323 or Cranford Police Detective Spencer Durkin at 908-709-7346.
Convictions on first-degree crimes typically result in penalties of 10 to 20 years in state prison, while second-degree crimes are commonly punishable by 5 to 10 years.