Investigators: Wager abuse occurred in on-campus home, office

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 30, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — Investigators say they believe a former Catawba College coach accused of molesting a child more than 20 years ago committed some of the crimes in his on-campus home and office.
In court filings, a prosecutor also says that Ralph William Wager abruptly resigned from his job as head soccer coach in 1990 “after allegations of improper contact with a minor child came to the attention of campus officials.”
Wager, a successful coach and member of the school’s Sports Hall of Fame, said at the time he was resigning due to stress.
On Friday, a Superior Court judge ordered Catawba to turn over personnel records related to Wager’s employment from 1983 to 1990 and records related to others who worked there at the time.
In a court filing, Assistant District Attorney Seth Banks says the college may have documents that relate to Wager’s employment, housing, personnel files, separation agreements and correspondence or records of correspondence between people associated with or employed by the college.
Catawba officials have said they are cooperating fully with investigators and conducting an independent investigation. President Brien Lewis released a statement Friday calling the court order “further indication that we are all determined to investigate these allegations.”
Authorities arrested 69-year-old Wager at his Charlotte home on July 17 and charged him with sexually abusing a child from 1987 to 1989 who he’d met while the child was using the campus pool.
Rowan County Sheriff’s Office investigators said the man, who was younger than 10 when the alleged abuse began, contacted them in May after searching for Wager on the Internet and learning he still works with children.
Until his arrest, Wager was a coach at the Steele Creek Soccer Club in Charlotte. He has been suspended indefinitely from the state association that oversees such clubs.
Banks said at a bond hearing Catawba officials were aware of the accusations in 1987. The victim told investigators his mother reported the allegations to college officials, who restricted Wager’s access to the pool.
The mother cut off Wager’s contact with her child. But when she died of cancer, Wager re-entered the boy’s life and continued the abuse into 1989, investigators say.
The judge ordered Catawba to provide a list of everyone who worked at the college from 1983 to 1990 and their last known mailing addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses.
The prosecutor did not say who or how many people at the time may have known about the alleged abuse.
Wager remains in the Rowan County jail under $1 million bond charged with three counts each of first-degree sex offense with a child, crimes against nature and indecent liberties with a child.
Meanwhile, police in Webster, N.Y., are investigating a man’s claim that Wager molested him while he was a student athlete in the 1960s. Wager coached at Webster Thomas High School near Rochester from 1967 to 1983.
The Rowan case is scheduled to go before a Rowan County grand jury today.
For more details see Tuesday’s Salisbury Post.