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Former sprinter details sex assaults, attacks that began when she was 15

Blinded by promises of Olympic glory, she said track coach David Case built her up, then tore her life apart
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Former Sudbury track coach David Case is on trial on five charges involving a woman, who can't be named because of a publication ban. Those charges include a sexual assault on a bus when the woman was just 15, sex attacks in a dorm room and local hotel room when she was 16 and physical attacks after the were secretly married shorty after she turned 18. (File)

A relationship that began as path to realize her dreams of qualifying for the Olympics turned into a nightmare of abusive and controlling behaviour, a former Sudbury woman testified Monday.

Former Sudbury track coach David Case is on trial on five charges involving the woman, who can't be named because of a publication ban. Those charges include sexual assault on a bus when the woman was just 15, sex attacks in a dorm room and a local hotel room when she was 16 and physical attacks after they were secretly married shorty after she turned 18.

Those incidents include one occasion when he forced her to strip naked, and then locked her outside in  -15C winter weather, she testified. Then Case turned the outside lights on and off, as she sat shivering, her feet turning blue from the cold, banging on the door for him to let her back in. 

He did the same thing when they lived in an apartment building, forcing her into the hallway naked for an hour as she hid behind a door to prevent anyone from seeing her. 

In another incident, the woman said Case pushed her down the stairs, and she slammed into a screen door, deeply cutting her hand, which began to bleed heavily. After refusing to take her to the hospital, she began walking. He followed, but she didn't want to get in the car with him. But he beeped and beeped and beeped the horn as she struggled to walk, eventually getting in the car.

He dropped her off at hospital – but far from the emergency door, so he wouldn't be seen. She required a blood transfusion and surgery to repair tendons.

When hospital officials asked her what happened, “I told them I fell down the stairs.”

The woman said by the time she fled the relationship in January 1993, she was estranged from her family, had no friends, her Olympic aspirations were gone and she had trouble keeping jobs because of Case's controlling and jealous behaviour.

Assistant Crown attorney Stephanie Baker said Case took advantage of the woman using his position as a prominent track coach to control and abuse her, mentally, physically and sexually. He met her in the summer of 1982 when she was 14, a promising runner about to enter her first year of high school.

Because of her potential, her coach at school recommended she get a professional coach. Case was a coach at the Northland Athletic Club and she met him during workouts that summer.

“I was very intimidated,” she testified. “He was, from what I understood, a good coach.” 

Case advised her on her form and technique, and she thrived under his direction. He went to the U.S. in the fall, however, and she went to her first year of high school, having just turned 15 in August. 

Being an Olympic sprinter was her dream since she was in Grade 3, she testified, and while she was winning high school races, she felt she had a lot more development ahead of her. 

Case returned to Sudbury in spring 1983, and that summer she worked with him daily. He told her he could help her crack Canada's Olympic team one day.

“And I thrived on that,” she said. “I felt like I was the favourite athlete -- I got the attention during the workouts. It was all positive attention. Praising. He was always talking to me about certain times he thought I could run. He worked on my form. He made me feel like a superstar. I loved showing him I was worth his time.”

Her mother, however, was less enthralled with Case. He was five years older than she was and her mom didn't think the amount of time he showed his daughter was appropriate. After the end of summer training in 1984, Case gave her family a present: a framed, professional photo of himself. 

“For my mom, all the red flags went up at that point,” the woman testified.

The first assault took place when they were at a track meet in London, Ont., in 1984. Case asked her to go to his dorm room for what she assumed would be a discussion about her upcoming race.

“I remember sitting on the bed, and he laid me back and I froze,” she testified. “I was shaking my head.”

Case undressed, lifted up her top and climbed on top of her and grinded on her until he ejaculated on her stomach. Then he wiped it with a towel and left. 

“I remember him saying it was OK,” she testified, holding back emotion. “I remember him moaning a lot. I just froze. It’s not what I wanted. I was so scared. I had never seen a man naked.”

There was no hint of romance or anything like that beforehand, she said, and afterward they didn't talk about it. She ended up with a serious injury at that competition. On the bus back, Case sat beside her and molested her, she testified, sliding his hand under her clothes and fondling her genitals Again, she froze, unable to process what was happening.

“I was scared and embarrassed,” she said. “I pretended like nothing happened I didn’t want to upset my parents or Mr. Case. I just wanted to keep running.

“I was always trying to please him. I loved running so much, I just ... he just made me feel special, like I was going to be something great.”

While her mom pressured her to stop training with him, Case worked to drive a wedge between them, portraying her mother as the main obstacle holding her back from the Olympics. She began to side with Case and drift from away from her mom when, she testified, he sexually assaulted her again. She was heading to party when Case asked her to meet him at a hotel room.

“I don’t know why I would have gone to a hotel with him,” she said. “I just know once I was there, I didn’t want to be there.”

He undressed her, even as she began sobbing, took off his clothes and put on a condom. Case got on top of her and he penetrated her.

“I said 'I can’t do this, please stop,' ” she testified.

After it was over, she took a cab to a friend's place and again, didn't tell anyone what happened. Focused on the Olympics, and Case as her best chance of making it, the woman said she pretended everything was OK, even as things were falling apart.

She ended up moving out of her parent's home and lived with Case's family for a time. But when she visited her parents, Case would begin calling the house and hang up when someone answered. That was her cue he had decided her visiting time was up, she said. 

Over time, the dread of the phone calls made her family visits too stressful, and she said when he began calling on Christmas, her mother finally gave her a choice: Case or her family.

She chose Case, who increasingly dominated her every move.

“I didn’t have any friends – I had acquaintances at school but not friends,” she said. “He was literally my whole world.” 

When repeated calls from her mother upset Case's parents, she ended up living in a shabby room at the Frood Hotel for a year and a half. She still managed to graduate from school and the pair married in secret when she turned 18 and got an apartment on Regent Street. She wasn't allowed to tell anyone about the marriage, she said, and that was fine by her because she was embarrassed by the situation.

“I was so lost at that point, I just did what I was told,” she said. “I wasn’t allowed to tell anybody (about the marriage) by Mr. Case. I also didn’t want my parents to find out I had gotten married.

“Was it love? No. I didn’t love him. But I had nobody else. No friends. He was the centre of my world. I was never really out of his sight.”

Life with Case was difficult, she said. He liked to apply for credit cards using false information. She would pose as the employer he listed on the application when the card companies called to confirm the information. That led to frequent visits from bailiffs and others as the bills piled up. As the pressure built, the relationship became more destructive, she testified, both mentally and physically.

“It was like I was being controlled -- I couldn’t do anything without him needing to know where I was, or coming with me, or not allowing me to go,” she said. “I had no sense of self worth. I was cowered. I hated getting him upset because he would typically start embarrassing me in public.” 

By the time she flew to Thunder Bay in late 1992 for the funeral of her grandmother, the woman said she was getting close to breaking free. She said when she and her mother flew back to Sudbury after the funeral, she planned to stay the night with her mom. Then they received call from police: Case had called them to accuse her of stealing his shorts before she left.

“I felt so small,” she said. “I didn’t want this to be my life. I needed to get out.” 

Her running dreams ended a year earlier, in 1991, after a serious injury. While she could have recovered, mentally she had nothing left and stopped training. 

“I felt I put in a lot of work for nothing. I was wasted. That was my whole dream. I wanted to be somebody and it never happened.”

When Case travelled to Toronto in January 1993, she seized her chance and called her mother. Her mother immediately picked her up and put her on a plane to Thunder Bay. It was far enough away from Case, and she was able to stay with family. Her mother later moved there, and paid half of the large debts left over from her time with Case.

She enrolled in university and graduated, trying her best to put it all behind her. But when her now husband proposed to her, she felt had to tell him everything before saying yes.

She eventually spoke to detectives in March 2017, despite the  “embarrassment and humiliation” of reliving it all.

“I didn’t think anyone would believe me,” she said, when asked why she kept it secret for so long. “I wanted it forgotten. I had made a good life for myself despite what had happened and I wanted to forget about it.”

Case, his head shaved and wearing a light blue suit, showed little emotion as the woman testified, occasionally writing notes to show to his lawyer, Nicholas Xyannis. 

The trial continues Tuesday morning and is expected to wrap up by Friday. Case is facing a second set of charges, along with co-accused Celine Loyer. That trial begins in two weeks.