L.A. Now

Torrance wrestling coach charged with molesting 25 students on team

Torrance wrestling coach charged with molesting 25 students on team

Parents were stunned Thursday by allegations that a longtime Torrance teacher and coach molested 25 students on the high school’s wrestling team.

Thomas Snider, 47, was charged with 33 felony counts of inappropriately touching children and eight misdemeanor counts of child molesting, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Snider, a longtime teacher and coach at Torrance High School, turned himself in to the Torrance Police Department, whose detectives investigated the alleged sexual misconduct for the last three months.

The 25 students he’s accused of molesting were all members of the school’s wrestling team, said Torrance police Sgt. Paul Kranke. The students ranged in age from 13 to 16 and the alleged misconduct occurred between September 2013 and January 2015, according to the criminal complaint.

After several students came forward with allegations of sexual abuse in January, Snider was placed on paid administrative leave and detectives launched a “lengthy and detailed investigation,” Kranke said. After his arrest, Snider was placed on unpaid leave, according to a statement from the Torrance Unified School District.

Parent Elba Ruiz, 43, of Torrance said the allegations were difficult to believe.

"He's a nice person," she said. "He was my son's teacher and he never said anything to me that would make me think he would do something like this."

Authorities, she said, should spend more time investigating the students’ claims.

Maria Rincon, 45, who lives near the school, said the allegations and Snider’s arrest were “discouraging."

"The police wouldn't do anything -- in terms of arresting him -- if they didn't have proof," she said.

Snider's attorney, Rosty Gore, insisted that his client is innocent and said the longtime educator has been "extremely cooperative" with authorities.

"He categorically denies any merit to any criminal charges he may face," said Gore, noting that the investigation and ensuing charges have taken a toll on Snider, his wife and three children.

"His life is now being basically destroyed," Gore said. "They have been truly suffering because of these false claims."

Snider began working for the school district in 1990 as a career technical education teacher, the district said. He was hired as the wrestling coach two years ago.

Snider is scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment on Thursday, and is being held on $900,000 bail.

Times staff writer Veronica Rocha contributed to this story.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno and @LATvives

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

10:43 a.m., April 16: This story was updated with comments from the parents of students at the school.

This story was first published at 10:18 p.m., April 15.

75°