A former volunteer basketball coach at East Lake High was arrested Saturday on charges of child abuse and child pornography, the Pinellas Sheriff’s Office said.
Frederick T. Lowe, 56, of Palm Harbor is accused of abusing a 16-year-old student who was on the basketball team. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said in a news conference Saturday that Lowe is accused of making the boy strip and wear a diaper until he urinated on himself.
Lowe would then take off the diaper, smell it and wipe the boy’s genitals, Gualtieri said.
“This guy, this stuff, is as sick as it gets,” Gualtieri said.
Lowe and the boy met last summer through the basketball team, where he has volunteered as a coach for about two years, Gualtieri said. In April, the student started visiting Lowe’s home for mentoring and tutoring. Between then and July, there were five occasions that Lowe called the student a “bad boy” and made him wear the diaper as punishment for acting out at school, Gualtieri said.
The boy told his parents in July and stopped going to Lowe’s house. His parents didn’t report it to law enforcement to avoid embarrassment, Gualtieri said. The student returned to Lowe’s house in late July without telling his parents after Lowe offered to pay him $20 to do house chores. Between then and September, Lowe kissed the student on the mouth five times and told the boy he loved him, according to Gualtieri.
When the boy protested, Lowe threatened to kick him off the team.
“He’s using his position of authority, his position of power, to force this kid to do these acts,” Gualtieri said.
The basketball coach, Britt Taylor, noticed a problem when Lowe offered to let the boy stay in his hotel room while planning for a possible team retreat, Gualtieri said. Taylor spoke with the boy’s parents, who told Taylor what they knew from their son. Taylor reported the relationship to police in October.
After learning of the sheriff’s investigation, the Pinellas County School District barred Lowe from coaching and interacting with students, a school district spokeswoman said.
Deputies arrested him Saturday morning at his apartment, where he acknowledged making the boy wear a diaper, Gualtieri said. Detectives also found video pornography involving children as young as 9 years old.
He was held in the Pinellas County Jail on three counts of possession of child pornography and one count of child abuse. His total bail was set at $310,000.
Detectives think there may be other victims. There is evidence that Lowe may have had inappropriate contact with friends of his now-adult sons, Gualtieri said. The Sheriff’s Office is asking other possible victims or anyone with information about Lowe to come forward.
“We understand that it’s hard,” he said. “But it’s important that this guy stay where he is — in jail and off the streets.”