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Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2018 @ 12:52 PM
Updated: Thursday, November 01, 2018 @ 5:55 PM
GERMANTOWN — UPDATE @ 5:55 p.m. (Nov. 1):
A former soccer coach who took off halfway through his sexual assault trial and ditched his ankle monitor is now the subject of a nationwide search.
The arrest warrant for Justin K. Smith of Germantown has been expanded across the country. He is accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl he coached.
His trial on eight charges began Monday.
The 41-year-old testified in his own defense on Wednesday. The court adjourned for a lunch break but Smith didn’t return. Instead, Smith apparently ditched his court-ordered ankle monitoring bracelet and fled.
His ankle bracelet stopped sending signals in the Franklin area. Investigators said they recovered the device in the back of a pickup truck not far from Caesar Creek. The truck’s owner had no connection to Smith, they said.
People in Smith’s hometown are surprised by his disappearance.
“Shows you’re guilty, shows you’re very guilty, I think,” Amanda Patrick said.
“So often young women aren’t listened to and the fact they listened to her and followed through makes me happy for our community,” said Anna Stueder.
A judge ordered Smith on home detention as part of his bail while waiting for and during his trial.
The electronic home detention program is one that Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. has expressed concerns about. He recently cited crimes committed by people on EHDP.
The program manager said there are typically about 80 people at a time on electronic home monitoring.
“We monitor 24/7 and we respond to alerts 24/7,” Mary Kay Sterling said.
UPDATE @ 9:44 a.m. (Nov. 1):
A former soccer coach on trial for sexual conduct with a 14-year-old girl is still missing.
Justin K. Smith has not been found as of 9:30 a.m. Thursday, according to Montgomery County Common Pleas Court officials.
A manhunt is underway tonight for a man on trial for sexual conduct with a teen he coached in youth soccer.
Justin K. Smith is wanted for failure to appear according Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.
Smith took the stand Wednesday morning in his own defense, but did not return after the court took a break for lunch.
“When the court ruled for our lunch recess at 11:30 a.m. the court advised all parties that we were going to resume at 1 p.m.,” Judge Erik Blaine said when court resumed without Smith. “The defendant was present for that order and did hear that order.”
The judge said that Smith may have tampered with an ankle bracelet that monitored his location.
A pretrial services officer testified that they received a malfunction notice for the bracelet around noon.
Smith’s last known location is an emergency room in Franklin.
Pretrial services contacted emergency rooms in Franklin and Middletown to see if Smith was seeking treatment, but could not locate him.
Smith’s family is not aware of his location and he has not returned calls or texts from his lawyers, according to his defense team.
The victim and her mother are safe and are not with Smith.
“I think everyone’s immediate reaction was concern for the victim,” said Dylan Smearcheck, assistant Montgomery County prosecutor. “It was ascertained fairly quickly that she was safe, in a safe place with her family, everyone kept an eye on that pretty closely.
Smith gave no indication that he wouldn’t return to court according to his lawyers.
“He’s been compliant throughout this entire process,” said Adam Arnold. “We’ve talked about this date for weeks.”
“We had no indication that he was going go to absent on us,” said Michael Booher.
A pretrial services officer previously called Smith a “saint” during one of his hearings according to Arnold.
“He was one of the best people [the officer] ever had on EHDP,” Arnold said.
Smith took the stand Wednesday morning and admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with the 14-year-old victim.
However, he claimed there was no sexual conduct between them, something that prosecutors said the teen’s testimony contradicted.
Smith and his lawyers tried to paint the picture that while relationship with the teen became inappropriate and involved some sexual contact, it did not involve sexual conduct.
When prosecutors began their questioning of Smith, they pointed out that 326 texts were exchanged in one day, which the teen described as “light.”
In one month, Smith and the teen exchanged more than 17,000 texts, according to the prosecution.
They maintained that the teen’s texts and her own words on the stand make it clear that there was sexual conduct between Smith and the girl.
“My testimony is that we had a physical, as embarrassing as it is to say, we had physical contact in nature,” Smith said. “Because it was in my home, there were people there, in proximity. We were never naked, never had our clothes off. It never escalated to that level.”
Around 11:30 a.m., the court took a break for lunch and was scheduled to resume at 1 p.m. for closing arguments. When Smith did not show up, it was pushed back to 2 p.m.
Court resumed around 2:30 p.m.
No decision is expected today.