News 4 Investigates: Disturbing video testimony of former St. Louis County softball coaches accused of sexually assaulting player
ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV) – Two now former St. Louis County softball coaches admit, under oath, that they had sexual contact with a player they were trusted to teach.
Aaron Byington and Alex Wolters, former St. Louis Stix coaches, admitted in sworn depositions that there was more going on off the field with the teenage athletes they coached.
News 4 Investigates obtained video that is rarely seen, an hours-long deposition of both Byington and Wolters answering questions about what they did. The depositions are public records in a civil lawsuit. Neither coach has been criminally charged but News 4 learned that St. Louis County police are investigating.
The player at the center of these disturbing allegations goes by Jane Doe in the lawsuit. Doe said she’s not ready to go public, but both she and her lawyers told News 4 they want to share her story to make sure what she went through doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Doe is suing Byington and Wolters, along with the locations where she said the coaches sexually assaulted her. She was part of the St. Louis Stix, a competitive team for girls 18 and under that paid the Kirkwood Athletic Association to play on their fields. Byington was the head coach, and Wolters assisted him. Both men were also Kirkwood Athletic Association employees.
In the lawsuit, Doe claims the abuse started in 2020 with Byington and Wolters each “grooming” her. She said it evolved to “repeated sexual assault that continued for a year.” According to the lawsuit, Doe was 17 years old when she joined the team. Wolters was 27, and Byington was 36.
“Do you think it’s okay for you to have sexual relationships with your female players?” A lawyer is heard asking Byington off camera during the deposition.
“If a female player is of age, a consenting age,” he answered.
Under Missouri law, the age of consent is 17. However, in the lawsuit, Doe claims what happened to her was “childhood sexual abuse” and “sexual abuse.”
Byington testified he sent Doe nude photos. He also described stretching her and other players during practices, something he said happened in plain sight of other girls and adults.
“I stretched her in the parking lot,” Byington said in his deposition.
“And, stretching her, you would rub your body up – press your body up against hers?” An off-camera lawyer asked.
“Yes, sir,” he answered.
Byington testified he didn’t have formal training in the stretching technique he used. He said things went farther during a stretching session at least once, when the team traveled to Branson, Missouri, for a tournament.
“Did you do anything other than stretch Jane Doe when you were in the parking lot by the clubhouse?” A lawyer asked.
“Bodily grinding,” Byington answered.
During the video testimony, Byington made it clear that he believed what happened with Doe didn’t count as sex.
“I don’t see that I’ve caused any harm to anybody,” said Byington
“Because you deny that you’ve ever had sex with any player?” The off-camera lawyer asked.
“Could you be more specific when you use the word sex please?” asked Byington.
“Well, it kind of sounds like Bill Clinton’s deposition in the impeachment trials,” answered the lawyer.
“Objection, argumentative,” another lawyer said off-camera.
“What is your definition of having sex with player?” Asked a lawyer.
“I would say that my definition of having sex with a player would be genital-to-genital penetration,” answered Byington.
Byington testified that he gave Doe private lessons at the Kirkwood Athletic Association when the fields were closed, and he’d take her into a storage building alone.
A lawyer off camera asked, “How many times do you remember having oral sex with her in the shed?”
“Twice,” answered Byington.
In the lawsuit, Doe claims Wolters physically abused her during sex.
“If you’d like to characterize it as abuse, I did spit on her,” Wolters testified in the deposition.
“Isn’t true you would punch her to where you would bruise her?” A lawyer asked.
“No. Not to my knowledge.”
“You would pull her hair?”
“Cause her pain?”
Wolters testified he had sex with Doe in multiple places, including the Kirkwood Athletic Association, his car, and the Wildwood apartment he shared with his parents.
“Were you worried that you were causing her physical pain?” A lawyer asked.
“No. I should have been.” Wolters answered.
“Did you worry you were causing her emotional pain?”
“No. I should have been.”
“Did you ever explain to Jane Doe why making her cry or spitting on her or punching her turned you on?”
“I don’t remember.”
When a lawyer asked Wolters how the deposition was going he opened up.
“It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do,” he said.
“Can you tell me why?” A lawyer asked.
“Because I understand that what I’ve done has really caused Jane Doe some -- some harm, and it wasn’t right.”
“And if you had to do it again, you wouldn’t. Do you agree?”
Wolters and his lawyer chose not to answer multiple questions, including if anything happened with other girls on the team.
“You have had sex with other ballplayers that you’ve coached, isn’t that true?” A lawyer asked Wolters.
“Based upon my advice, Alex is going to assert his Fifth Amendment rights under the Constitution concerning possible self-incrimination and decline to answer that question,” Wolters’ lawyer said.
“I’m using my Fifth Amendment right,” Wolters said.
The video depositions have been sent to the St. Louis County Police Department and are part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
The girl in the case reported what happened to officers last fall. The case has been under investigation for almost a year. News 4 Investigates asked police what is taking so long but they wouldn’t answer the question directly. In an email, a department spokesperson explained, “The case is still actively being investigated. We anticipate presenting it to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office within the next couple of months.”
Both Byington and Wolters testified that they stopped working for the Kirkwood Athletic Association and the St. Louis Stix last fall.
Byington said he quit the Kirkwood Athletic Association, and Wolters claimed he resigned after getting a text from the Association’s Treasurer Jim Woodruff.
“He said something along the lines of, ‘If what we’ve heard is true, we will need you to resign.’ It was already in my plans to resign prior to him sending that text message,” Wolters testified in his deposition.
News 4 Investigates spoke to Woodruff over the phone and he confirmed the account. Woodruff also said they did not alert the police.
“We didn’t take it to the police, no,” Woodruff said. “Because I think we, you know I shouldn’t even say because I’m just not remembering exactly how all of this came down.
According to Woodruff, the association did not require employees or coaches to do training to prevent sexual misconduct and abuse.
“The teams sign up as a team so the responsibility to treat players in any certain way is up to the manager of the team,” he said.
When reached by News 4 Investigates, the association’s president, Eric Eickmeyer, said he had no comment because of the lawsuit. The Kirkwood Athletic Association shut down last fall, claiming they ran out of money.
News 4 Investigates contacted Byington and Wolters. Byington declined to talk, and Wolters hung up the phone.
When Wolters left the St. Louis Stix, he also coached at the St. Louis Community College – Meramec. He said he resigned from that job.
“Did you hear any kind of rumors about yourself and any kind of player -- with a relationship with any kind of player at Meramec?” Asked a lawyer at the deposition.
“Yes,” he answered.
The college sent News 4 Investigates a statement stating:
“Alex Wolters was the part-time assistant women’s softball coach at St. Louis Community College from August 18, 2021, to October 9, 2021. We have no record of complaints about Wolters from any student, faculty, or staff member. As an STLCC employee, he had an opportunity to complete Safe Colleges training - a self-guided online compliance training program. However, Wolters began working for the College and resigned for personal reasons before the required date of completion.”
Wolters also worked in Rockwood schools, where he coached baseball at Marquette High School from 2018 to 2019. He then worked in the classroom as a substitute teacher for a few months in early 2021, which fell within the time he testified he was having sex with Jane Doe.
Rockwood schools sent News 4 Investigates the following statement:
“The Rockwood School District has learned that a former coach is under investigation by local authorities for inappropriate contact with a minor. It is our understanding that the allegations do not involve a current or former Rockwood student. The individual coached a Rockwood high school boys’ team for one season in 2019 and worked as a substitute teacher in the district for three months in 2021. There have been no allegations of inappropriate contact with a Rockwood student that the district is aware of.
All employees, coaches and substitutes undergo thorough background checks, which include a criminal background check, child abuse background check, and a check against the National Sex Offender database prior to being hired. The safety of our students is always our primary concern and we will always cooperate fully with any law enforcement investigations.”
Wolters and Byington both testified that they’re not currently coaching. Since they have not been criminally charged they can work with other teams and kids.
Byington said he currently works in construction. Wolters is working for Explore St. Louis as an event manager.
News 4 Investigates reached out to everyone involved and gave them all chances to respond. No one wanted to sit down with News 4 Investigates.
In Missouri, there’s no statewide requirement for youth sports coaches to be trained in preventing sexual misconduct and abuse.
There is a federal requirement, which wouldn’t apply in this case. In 2017, Congress passed the SafeSport Act for Olympic-affiliated teams. The act also establishes there’s a power imbalance between coaches and players and they can’t be involved in sexual acts until the player turns 20.
The defendants in the case now want the court record sealed. They filed a joint motion stating KMOV reached out and the case should not be tried “in the court of public opinion.” Jane Doe’s lawyer filed a response saying they want the record kept open, arguing that parents and potentially other victims have the right to know.
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