Police: YMCA voyeur had keys to Lake Wylie, Gold Hill branches

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJune 25, 2013 

— The former janitor deputies say recorded women undressing in locker rooms at two YMCA facilities in York County was given a master key granting him access to both branches for more than a year, according to police documents obtained by The Herald.

Authorities have charged John Ross Eddy, 58, of 4085 Alana Court in Tega Cay with 80 counts of voyeurism after deputies said they discovered he installed recording devices at the Fort Mill-area YMCA branch on Gold Hill Road and the Lake Wylie facility on Charlotte Highway.

Police say the total number of women recorded on the devices is unclear because of poor video quality. It’s also unclear if some of the women on camera might have been recorded more than once.

Eddy worked as a part-time janitor at the Lake Wylie YMCA, and occasionally worked at the Gold Hill Road location as a substitute, said Frank “Moe” Bell, CEO of the Upper Palmetto Branch YMCA, which oversees nine branches in York County and one in Chester County.

Two weeks ago, a Lake Wylie branch employee accidentally knocked a hidden camera out of the ceiling of the women’s locker room, said York County Sheriff’s Detective Chris Bomar, lead investigator on the case. Deputies sifted through the recording device and found pictures of women undressing without “their knowledge or consent,” arrest warrants show.

They also found that Eddy recorded himself setting up the devices, sheriff’s office spokesman Trent Faris said.

Police arrested Eddy, charging him with six counts of voyeurism, but he was soon released on bond. The device police say he installed is marked with the letters “LW,” likely reflecting his use of it at the Lake Wylie branch, according to a search warrant.

The same day deputies arrested Eddy, Bomar said police issued a search warrant at his Alana Court house and seized his electronics.

On his laptop, they found videos of 34 more women at the Lake Wylie YMCA, and 40 women at the Gold Hill location, police documents show. Investigators determined that Eddy recorded women at the Gold Hill facility after matching the setting of the gym with the surroundings depicted on the recordings, Bomar said.

Believing he might have a second recording device, deputies sought a search warrant to seize more of his property.

“The video recordings from this location and the other location in Lake Wylie appear to be recorded too close in time and date which indicates a second recording device being used which was not recovered during the first search warrant served” at the suspect’s residence, Bomar wrote in an affidavit. “It was also made known to us the suspect has a master key to all York County YMCA’s in this area which he had access to even after he was released from jail last week.”

Deputies searched the Gold Hill YMCA, the documents show, and found Velcro attached to the ceiling in the women’s restroom, the search warrant states. The Velcro was “similar to the one used to hold” the recording device in Lake Wylie.

After searching Eddy’s home, police found a second digital recording device, according to police documents, and seized it along with Eddy’s iPod, five memory cards, batteries, a USB cable and a key to the Gold Hill Road building.

Deputies last week contacted Eddy’s lawyer, Rock Hill attorney James Boyd, and told him they prepared 74 additional warrants on Eddy. Eddy agreed to turn himself in and “cooperate” with the investigation, Boyd said.

Boyd declined to comment on the allegations against Eddy, but said time will show that Eddy “has been an outstanding citizen.”

“The charges have just been made,” he said, “and we’re investigating them.”

Eddy was in the York County Detention Center in York last Saturday, but was later released on a bond.

Deputies are still completing computer forensics on Eddy’s electronics, Bomar said.

Heather Sanford, a Fort Mill mother, said thinking about Eddy watching women “is kind of creepy.” She never noticed “the maintenance man” at the Gold Hill gym, but said he did look familiar.

“I’ve only been here twice since it happened,” she said, adding that she prefers to take her children to the YMCA in Fort Mill’s Baxter Village.

As a personal philosophy, she said she never showers or changes clothes in the locker rooms at gyms.

But Zach Walker does. He’s been a member of the Gold Hill YMCA for the past seven months. After learning about Eddy’s arrest, he said, “Eww” and “that’s just nasty.”

But his opinions about the YMCA – specifically the Gold Hill location – haven’t wavered.

“It’s a good place,” he said. “They take care of their people.”

“We hate that it happened,” said Bell, the Upper Palmetto YMCA CEO.

YMCA officials performed thorough background checks on Eddy before hiring him a year ago, Bell said. They didn’t find anything suspect on his record. Records with the State Law Enforcement Division confirm that Eddy has no prior criminal history.

“We do everything we can to ensure that members are safe,” Bell said. “Safety is always our first priority.”

About 29,000 people are YMCA members in York County, he said.

Bell said employees plan to re-evaluate hiring practices, although “nothing in the hiring process indicated that it wasn’t a good hire.”

Eddy started working with the YMCA on Mar. 29, 2012, cleaning the Lake Wylie YMCA and unlocking the doors for employees. He typically reported to work at about 3 or 4 a.m., and only occasionally worked at the Gold Hill gym as a substitute.

Since his arrest, Eddy has been fired from his job and banned from all Upper Palmetto YMCA branches, Bell said. He also turned in the set of keys that gave him access to the two buildings.

Employees responsible for opening doors in the morning, or closing them at night, are usually given a set of master keys to the facilities they’re assigned to, Bell said.

Police have found no evidence showing that Eddy shared the recordings with any other people, or distributed them over the Internet, Bomar said. There is no indication that any of the recordings featured young girls or children.

“This is strictly just adult females,” Bomar said.

The women, who detectives have been unable to identify because of poor video quality, have all been labeled as “Jane Doe.” Arrest warrants list 40 Jane Does for the Lake Wylie facility, and 40 more for the Gold Hill location.

Efforts to reach Eddy were unsuccessful on Tuesday.

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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