Supporters of accused gymnastics coach speak out

Updated: 01/31/2014 10:17 PM | Created: 01/31/2014 10:12 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

An Albuquerque gymnastics coach is accused of touching a child inappropriately, and now current and former students are speaking out about their time with him.

48-year-old Russell Glanton is charged with criminal sexual contact of a minor, but Darlene Critelli, who has two students in his classes, can’t believe it.

To her daughter, 12-year-old gymnast Jennifer Critelli, Glanton is more than a coach.

“I feel like Rusty is part of the family, I've never felt uncomfortable around him,” Jennifer Critelli said.

Critelli and her 6-year-old sister took lessons with Glanton. Her mom Darlene says she watched some of them, and left her kids alone with him for others.

“I never had any question in my mind about him. I've always trusted him and I felt like my girls loved him and were in a safe environment,” Darlene Critelli said.

She says she was stunned when allegations surfaced that he’d touched a young girl sexually.

“The first thing I asked her is, have you ever felt uncomfortable around Rusty? And her immediate answer was no,” Darlene Critelli said.

Darlene felt relieved, but as she realized her daughter will no longer have the man who she says trained her daughter tremendously as a coach, she was devastated.

“It's really just been disheartening...she just has no place to go and it's just...her passion,” Darlene Critelli said.

The Critellis hope Glanton will be found innocent, and that public scrutiny over the charges won’t cause the coach they trust to lose his livelihood.

“That's what saddens me now -- his future and my kids' future,” Darlene Critelli said.

“That's all I look forward to all week - going to class. I'm just gonna miss it so much,” Jennifer Critelli said.

Glanton is the sole owner of ABQ Tumbling and Trampoline. It’s closed until further notice, because he cannot return to the location until the case is resolved.

A criminal complaint says a young girl told her family members he put his fingers underneath her clothes and that she felt “violated.” The girl said she believed five other girls had been touched as well.

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