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Gymnastics coach accused of child molestation found dead

INDIANAPOLIS - Authorities say the head of an Indianapolis gymnastics academy who was jailed on charges of child pornography and molestation has been found dead of an apparent suicide in his cell.

Marion County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Katie Carlson says 49-year-old Marvin Sharp, who coached two members of the 2008 U.S. women's Olympic team, died Saturday night. She didn't say how he died but said foul play isn't suspected.

Sharp, the USA Gymnastics 2010 Coach of the Year, was arrested Aug. 24 on four counts of child molestation and three counts of sexual misconduct with a minor. A probable cause affidavit stated he repeatedly fondled or touched a 14-year-old girl he had coached.

He also faced federal charges of having knowingly received and possessed child pornography.

The Indianapolis Star reports Sharp coached central Indiana natives Bridget Sloan and Samantha Peszek before they were members of the U.S. team that won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

At the time of his arrest, CBS Indianapolis affiliate WTTV reported former coaches and gymnasts were defending Sharp.

One woman, who declined to be identified, told the station she has known Sharp for over 15 years and doesn't believe the allegations are true.

"He's probably, of all the coaches I have come across, the least likely I would ever think to do something like he's being accused of," she said.

While it's unclear if the allegations stem from any incident in the gym, the woman was quick to point out gymnastics is a hands on sport and Sharp, as well as other coaches at the gym, have been trained on proper spotting techniques.

Michele Callahan, a current coach at Sharp's Gymnastics Academy, released a statement to WTTV saying she stands by Sharp.

"Gymnastics is a sport where its very nature puts male coaches at risk of false accusations. I have seen such a thing happen to another coach. I certainly hope this can be cleared up quickly before it affects his very positive and respectable career," Callahan said.

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