“The whispers Kevin Busby overheard from classmates when students learned a basketball coach was leaving the Orangewood Christian School still ring out in his mind, more than 20 years later.
The news, delivered over the school’s speakers in 1996, was that Tim Manes, who coached basketball and cross-country at the Maitland school, would not be coming back to the school and no students were to contact him.
“I thought, ‘This is how we’re going to deal with this?’ ” Busby, now 38, said of Manes, the man he said abused him in a locker room shower when he was 15.
Busby, who still lives in Maitland, is one of three former students who told the Orlando Sentinel that Manes sexually abused them when they attended the school in the ’90s. Their claims come amid an investigation by Orangewood, which runs the school and a Presbyterian church, into decades-old allegations of abuse by staff and volunteers.
Manes, 53, could not be reached for comment. Less than a decade after he left Orangewood, in 2003, he was accused of lewd and lascivious molestation of a boy in an unrelated case. He pleaded no contest and is now a registered sex offender.
Last month, Orangewood hired GRACE, an independent organization that investigates claims of abuse in religious institutions, to conduct the investigation.
The allegations, Orangewood Director Allyn Williams said, included “whether Orangewood had knowledge of such allegations and how it responded” at the time of the incidents.
Orangewood Church’s head pastor, Jeff Jakes, also has been accused of harassing and emotionally abusing a former intern in 1998 and is part of the investigation. The church announced he was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 28 “to avoid any assertion of influence with [the] investigation, and will remain so throughout GRACE’s investigation,” Williams said. Jakes has not been accused of physical or sexual abuse.
Williams did not respond to specific questions about any of the allegations against Manes. He said GRACE asked Orangewood to refrain from commenting on the inquiry until it concludes.
Williams previously said that, to date, three law enforcement agencies — the Maitland Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office — have been contacted by the church, though he didn’t say when. The three victims who spoke to the Sentinel have not been in contact with authorities.
Busby said he first met Manes at a summer basketball camp in 1994. During the winter basketball season that same year, he fouled out of a game at Orangewood.
He headed to the showers alone. Manes followed.
“As I was taking a shower he moved up behind me. He watched me shower,” Busby said. Then, he recalls, his coach began to masturbate.
“I grabbed my stuff and kind of freaked out,” he said. “He sat me down and began to give me this whole lecture about, ‘You’re not right with God, this is your fault, this is your problem.’ ”
Manes then sat with him for the duration of the game, Busby recalled. They kept their distance after that incident, but he said he began noticing Manes became close to other boys at Orangewood, and if he suspected he was being watched, he would pull Busby aside and remind him he was “not right with God.”
“He was trying what I felt like was to isolate me, and keep me feeling like I was separate from the other guys on the team,” Busby said.
In the following months, he began to hear rumors from his classmates, insinuating he was gay.
Busby said a school official made a comment about him being gay. “He had teased me. There was no reason for any of this unless there was some kind of talk behind the scenes,” he said. “A lot of the guys that I played with, they distanced themselves from me.”
Earlier that same year, Randy Moulton, who was in eighth grade at the time, had Manes as his cross-country coach.
That fall, the team went to an overnight cross-country meet at a Christian school in Daytona Beach. The night before the race, he shared a hotel room with Manes, Moulton said. In the middle of the night, he said, he was jolted from his sleep by Manes, who was performing oral sex on him.
“He claimed he was massaging me, getting ready for the race the next day,” said Moulton, 37.
Unlike Busby, who kept his experience with Manes to himself, he said he went to a school official at the time, who he said dismissed his concerns.
“He said, ‘he was just massaging you,’ ” Moulton said. “I had to go every day to school … It was humiliating because you don’t want to tell your guy friends about that.”
Another former student at Orangewood said he experienced similar treatment from Manes. He asked not to be named. The Sentinel generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse unless they agree to be named, which Busby and Moulton did.
“He would help you stretch, his hands would come way too close to your genitals,” the now 36-year-old said. “Primarily, that’s how it all started.”
According to his recounting of the event, Manes approached him and tried to touch him inappropriately. He threw punches at Manes, who then grabbed him by his feet and dropped him on the floor. He split the bone in his right thumb and had to get surgery and pins inserted. He still has the scars.
“I think I just said I fell and broke my hand. My dad was a doctor, and I remember I showed him my hand,” he said.
Though he didn’t tell anyone at the time for fear of judgment, his wife — also a former student at Orangewood — confirmed he told her about the incident years later. She recalled the cast he had to wear at the time.
Busby said he also chose not to tell anyone at Orangewood because he was afraid of being further isolated.
“If they wanted to create a safer environment, some people would’ve come forward. Some of these guys … they still don’t want to talk about it,” he said.
Busby added that the school sent mixed messages about the way they dealt with delicate situations — handling controversies discretely, rather than reckoning with them transparently. When a classmate became pregnant, she suddenly disappeared from the school without explanation, he said.
“It was an environment where, ‘Oh, you’re supposed to love everybody,’ and in seventh grade they marched us down to an abortion clinic and they wanted us to protest an abortion clinic,” Busby said. When Manes was let go, “I just felt like the school should’ve gotten in contact with anybody [who] had been coached or mentored,” he said.
“They can offer counseling, work with you … it’s a church,” he added.
Busby’s mother, Jean Busby, who worked at the school at the time her son was enrolled, said she also remembered the announcement of Manes’ departure with no explanation. But she and her son said that speculation and rumors ran fast.
Busby remembers the reactions of two girls who sat next to him as the announcement blared throughout the school.
“They said, ‘[Tim] would never do something like that … he’s such a great guy,’ ” he recalled.
According to court documents, Manes was arrested in 2003, after filming a boy under a bathroom urinal and groping him at Typhoon Lagoon.
“I need to suppress any of these stupid feelings and keep my hands to myself,” Manes said in a written statement at the time. He was on probation for 10 years and served one day in jail, documents show.”