Sycamore teacher, DeKalb swim coach arrested on sex assault charges

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SYCAMORE – A Sycamore High School teacher who also coached boys' and girls' swim teams for DeKalb and Sycamore high schools is accused of sexually assaulting a girl she was coaching this summer.

Leah N. Eames, 32, of the 600 block of Haish Boulevard in DeKalb, appeared Wednesday in DeKalb County Court on charges of criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse, court records show. She has been placed on paid leave from her positions as a Sycamore math teacher and coach of the DeKalb-Sycamore co-op swim team.

DeKalb police began investigating Eames on Aug. 10, when a police officer checking the Barb City YMCA, 1515 S. Fourth St. in DeKalb, after hours found Eames working out with a student, DeKalb police Lt. Bob Redel said. The late hour seemed curious to the officer, so police examined the surveillance video from the time the two were there and saw them holding hands after the workout, Redel said.

Using the surveillance tape, police said detectives were able to identify the student and later interview her, and later discovered that Eames and the student had an ongoing sexual relationship.
Eames did not immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday.

The criminal charges allege Eames had sexual contact with a teenage swimmer between June and Tuesday, court records show.

Eames' bond was set at $75,000 Wednesday; she posted $7,500 bail and was released with orders not to have contact with the alleged victim or other minors, records show. She is next due in court Sept. 17. If convicted of the more serious charge, criminal sexual assault, she could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison; probation would not be an option.

Sycamore School District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman said Eames was a second-year math teacher at the high school. Countryman said Eames was placed on paid leave Tuesday morning after Sycamore school officials were notified of the police investigation.

Countryman said administrators have been working with Sycamore police, including the school resource officer, although DeKalb police are leading the investigation. On Wednesday, administrators sent an email to staff members notifying them of the charges against Eames. Countryman also sent a signed letter about the incident to parents of all children in the district.

“It’s a personnel issue that once we know more from the investigation, the board will take appropriate action,” Countryman said.

DeKalb School District 428 Superintendent Doug Moeller confirmed that Eames had been placed on administrative leave from her position as swim coach, for which she received a stipend from the district.

He said Eames started as an assistant coach for the co-op team in 2006, becoming head coach around 2009.

"Any time there are charges made against a coach, they are obviously relieved of their coaching duty," Moeller said. "If there are charges, then obviously we don't want them interacting with our students."

Until 2011, Eames had been a swim team coach for the Kishwaukee Family YMCA, Executive Director Rob Wilkinson said. YMCA officials never received any complaints or had concerns about her, but they notified parents of the allegations, Wilkinson said.

District 427 parents who have concerns about the situation should talk with their building principal or Countryman's office. Anyone with information about other possible victims or about the investigation should call the DeKalb Police Department at 815-748-8400.

• Daily Chronicle Sports Editor Eddie Carifio and Reporter Katie Dahlstrom contributed to this report.