ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- A case featured in a documentary about a woman who accused her former Lindbergh School District coach of sexual assault has gained national attention after the victim died before seeing her day in court.
A week ago, the Oxygen Network detailed the story of Emilie Morris. She came forward in 2013 and said her former Lindbergh high school cross country coach, Jim Wilder, sexually abused her while she was a student in the 90s.
She took her claims to police and later reportedly recorded Wilder talking about the incident.
“Even in your case, we did something that wasn't right, according to our laws. But you know I am not a creeper,” he said in the recording. “This kind of stuff, if we had been the same age, would have been no problem."
But in 2014, Morris, who family members say struggled with depression and alcoholism, was found dead in her Ballwin apartment from asphyxiation. Morris was found with her head in a trash can, but police never determined for sure if her death was accidental.
“It really is just a tragedy,” said St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell.
Bell sat down with News 4 after the documentary aired and said his office would review any additional evidence about Morris’ death.
He also explained why his office, under the previous administration, dropped the charges against Wilder.
“Without the alleged victim, it would be difficult to prove this case in a court of law,” he said.
The Oxygen Network called it: "The Case That Died With Her". But Morris' friend Christine Lieber believes the case is far from over.
“Since the story broke on Sunday, my phone has not stopped,” Lieber said. “I am confident that with the other victims that came forward, we will get justice this time.”
A week ago, Lieber started a Facebook page, Emilie’s Page, that now has 2,500 members.
People are showing support and sorrow, but also sharing their own stories of alleged inappropriate behavior suffered at Lindbergh schools. Those additional accusations, Lieber says, are not just against Wilder but other district employees as well.
“Primarily women victims are coming forward and telling their stories and it’s the same names over and over,” she said.
Lieber shared a story of her own about a Lindbergh employee, when she was in high school.
“I remember him trying to kiss me and this man is 40 years older than me,” she said.
Monday, Bell's office sent a statement to News 4, saying: "I can confirm that we have been contacted by some individuals in the wake of the Oxygen documentary and my appearance on KMOV. We place a high priority on seeing that allegations are investigated and reviewed for potential criminal charges."
News 4 spoke to Wilder by phone Monday and requested an on-camera interview. He said he wanted to consult an attorney but said what he was accused of with Morris is not what took place.
He called any other allegations against him: “bull.”
Lieber said Morris only wanted the truth told and other children protected.
“I truly believe if she could have gotten the help she needed as a victim, she would still be alive today,” she said.
Lieber and others feel Lindbergh officials failed to act in this and other similar situations. A spokesperson for the district sent News 4 a statement saying: "Any allegation of misconduct by a staff member is deeply troubling, and we take it very seriously.”
A spokesperson also provided a follow-up statement, which read: “I want to strongly reiterate that we take any allegation of misconduct by a staff member very seriously. The district has not received any formal complaints as a result of the Facebook group that was formed last week. However, we strongly encourage anyone who is making such reports to contact their local law enforcement directly to begin a formal investigation, or Lindbergh’s Chief Human Resources Officer Dr. Brian McKenney, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-729-2480.”
Additionally, the school said, “With regard to Jim Wilder, as soon as Lindbergh Schools received new evidence in 2015 from St. Louis County Police regarding Mr. Jim Wilder’s conduct, the Board of Education and administration took immediate action to terminate his contract. The agreement, signed in 2015, ensures that Mr. Wilder will never step foot on a Lindbergh campus again.”
Bell’s Office also provided additional information: “As always, we encourage all victims of sex crimes to contact their local law enforcement or our office. Because of the complexity of the many changes over the years to the Missouri statute of limitations that govern statutory rape and sodomy, victims of these despicable crimes should never assume that the crime committed against them is too old to be prosecuted. We encourage all sex crime victims to come forward so that their case can be investigated in light of the facts, evidence and statute of limitations.”