Abundant Life principal arraigned on first-degree sexual assault
By Greg Rayburn and Bill Lawson / Staff Writer
March 23, 2010
Tim Ballard, 39, high school principal and basketball coach at Sherwood’s Abundant Life High School, appeared in Sherwood District Court on Tuesday morning to answer to charges of sexual assault. The charges were filed in connection to allegations by a former Abundant Life student who said Ballard molested her numerous times while she was student there.
The arraignment began before the scheduled start time of 8 a.m. while the public was kept outside the courtroom.
Ballard, wearing dress slacks and a light blue dress shirt with a button-down collar, whispered “not guilty” when Judge Milas “Butch” Hale III asked him how he pleaded to the assault charges.
His case was bound over to Pulaski County Circuit Court. Ballard remains free on $50,000 bail, for which he posted bond on Saturday when he was released from the Pulaski County Regional Detention Center.
A woman who attended the arraignment with her child told reporters, “If it’s bad enough, they need to expose him. Secrets make me sick.”
On March 1, Sgt. William Michaels of the Sherwood Police Department received a phone call from a man who wished to remain anonymous.
“The male subject made Sgt. Michaels aware of the recent resignation of Coach Tim Ballard from Abundant Life Schools,” according to the affidavit arrest warrant filed in the Sherwood District Court. “The male said that Coach Ballard had been accused of having a sexual relationship with several female students.”
The warrant adds that the unnamed man stated that Ballard had been placed on administrative leave along with his wife, Sharon Ballard, who is also a teacher at Abundant Life. “The male proceeded to give Sgt. Michaels names of possible students, one in particular named [girl’s name blacked out], and asked that something be done about it.”
On March 1, Detectives Scott Hicks and Heather Meadows made contact with Russell Eudy, superintendent of Abundant Life Schools, which is affiliated with Sylvan Hills First Baptist Church located on Arkansas 107. Because of the school’s relationship with the church, pastor Keith Brickell also attended the meeting.
Brickell said Ballard had been placed on administrative leave on the morning of Feb. 24 after Eudy received an e-mail sent on Sunday, Feb. 21, from a former student.
“The e-mail was informing him that she had carried an inappropriate long term relationship with Tim Ballard during her attendance at the school,” reads the warrant. “In the e-mail, [female student] gave details to events ranging from her seventh grade year up to her senior year.”
Both Brickell and Eudy told police this was not the first time they received a complaint against Ballard about inappropriate behavior with a female student. “Eudy stated the first was made approximately 11 years ago and the most recent was made in September of 2009,” according to the warrant.
On March 15, Meadows interviewed the original female student whose e-mail started the investigation. “[Female student] stated she started attending Abundant Life School in her kindergarten year in 1997. [Student] said in her second grade year, 1999, she started playing sports and Tim Ballard, her coach at the time, showed her a lot of extra attention compared to the other students,” reads the warrant. “[Student] stated around her seventh grade year (2003) when she was 13 years old Ballard told her he was starting a [sports] team just so she could [participate] at Abundant Life. [Student] said that Ballard would constantly compliment her on her looks and her ability as an athlete and made her feel very special. [Student] said that Ballard started telling her, ‘You are the perfect female specimen’ in her eighth grade year.”
The female said that in her 10th-grade year she turned 16 and she started spending a lot of time alone with Ballard, telling people it was for training purposes. At this time, he was her [sports] coach and principal at Abundant Life. During her junior year after she turned 17 in December 2007, her relationship with Ballard got more serious.
“[Student] stated by May 2008 Ballard started touching her face often, then kissing her face and eventually kissing her lips,” reads the warrant. “[Student] said that Ballard once rubbed her butt while telling her, ‘I’ve always wanted to do this’.”
Ballard also taught her first-period class and he would tell her to come to school early and meet with him in the class so they could be alone. “[Student] said during this time Ballard would hold her and rub butt and push his leg between her thighs to stimulate her. [Student] told me during the summer after her junior year when she was 17 Ballard would have her meet him at the school sometimes during the day and other times late at night. She said Ballard would grope her breast, thighs, and buttocks area while kissing her.”
The warrant indicated that, in the beginning of her senior year, during August 2008, Ballard’s wife became suspicious of all the phone calls and text messages Ballard was making to the girl, so Ballard was forced to stop coaching the team she was on.
By mid-September 2008, while the girl was 17, Ballard began calling her from his office phone and setting up meetings with her so they could see each other again.
“[Student] said Ballard made a fake e-mail so she could contact him without calling his cell phone,” according to the warrant. “[Student] said Ballard had her meet him on the high school stage, empty hallways and in closets, places where they couldn’t be seen or wouldn’t get caught together during school hours. [Student] said Ballard would grope and fondle her.”
The girl further stated that Ballard would kiss her, rub her breast and she would touch his penis through his pants.
“Sometimes they would meet in his office and Ballard would shut the door,” reads the warrant. “[Student] said during her Thanksgiving break in her senior year (2008) while she was 17 she met Ballard at the school late one night and Ballard digitally penetrated her vagina. [Student] said that she didn’t stop him so he began to do it more often. [Student] also stated this is when she first performed oral sex on Ballard. [Student] said Ballard digitally penetrated her vagina five or six more times before graduation. [Student] also said she performed oral sex on Ballard at least one more time before she graduated in May of 2009.”
See also: Baptist school coach, principal charged with sexual assault, Associated Baptist Press, 3/23/2010 (stating that Abundant Life School is a ministry of Sylvan Hills First Baptist Church, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention).