BROOKSVILLE — The questions started with a couple of curious deputies. Later, the parents of a teenage girl became infuriated, and the Hernando school district got involved. Now the Sheriff's Office is officially handling the investigation.
Weeks later, it is still unclear what sort of future awaits James "Jamie" Joyner, the former head football coach at Nature Coast Technical High School.
"Sorry," said Sgt. Donna Black, spokeswoman with the Hernando Sheriff's Office. "We can't go into any facts or details about the ongoing investigation."
The Sheriff's Office launched a criminal investigation into Joyner's actions after allegations from the girl's parents that he had a sexual relationship with their daughter before she turned 18. Those accusations were revealed earlier this week after school officials made available the contents of their investigation into an off-campus meeting between Joyner and the student on March 27.
Among the documents in the district's file is a letter from the parents of the girl that accuses Joyner of "having an inappropriate sexual relationship with our daughter" that started "well before our daughter turned (18)."
The parents also said they had obtained proof of the relationship.
"They have both admitted to it," the parents said in the letter, "and we have found love letters from him to her and phone records."
The parents closed the letter — sent to the school district on April 21 — by asking for more information about the relationship from other parents, teachers and students.
Surprise resignation follows suspension
Joyner, 34, surprisingly resigned from his coaching and teaching positions at Nature Coast on April 13 while the school district looked into allegations about the off-campus meeting in late March. At the time, Joyner was serving a suspension with pay — his second suspension in less than six months — while district officials carried out the investigation.
According to a Sheriff's Office incident report, Joyner and the female student were observed by a patrol deputy sitting in their own parked vehicles at the Airport Industrial Park south of Brooksville the evening of March 27.
The report says Joyner and the student gave conflicting reports to the deputy about why they were meeting.
A few days later, in an interview with district officials at the school, the girl's mother was strident in her defense of Joyner. She said their families were close, that she trusted Joyner and she did not "believe he did anything inappropriate."
The mother added that "she feels terrible that an innocent act like this could cost Jamie his job."
The girl said that she sometimes worked as a babysitter for Joyner and his wife, an assistant coach for the girls' basketball team at Nature Coast. She told the officials that she idolized the Joyners and wanted to follow them into teaching and coaching.
Joyner said much the same thing during an interview two days earlier with district officials, telling them there was nothing unusual about him talking alone with the girl. Near the end of the interview, Joyner admitted to making a mistake in judgment.
"I'll never have any kind of a personal relationship with a student for the rest of my life, especially with a female student," Joyner said at the time. "I know how this looks. … I know now not to leave campus, that's what I've learned."
Deputy reports pair at Ridge Manor motel
But on April 11, a Hernando deputy saw vehicles belonging to Joyner and the girl parked in the lot of the Microtel Inn in Ridge Manor West, according to an incident report. The deputy interviewed Joyner, who initially said the girl was not at the hotel.
He later changed his story, saying the girl was with him at the hotel, that she was 18 and "she was there on her own accord." The girl also spoke with the deputies, telling them she wanted to be there and then providing them a driver's license showing that she turned 18 on Jan. 23.
Two days later, Joyner turned in a one-sentence resignation letter to Nature Coast.
Joyner did not respond to several messages left at his home and on his cell phone. A message left at the Spring Hill home of the girl's family wasn't returned as of Friday.
Meanwhile, Hernando school superintendent Wayne Alexander said the district closed its investigation into Joyner and sent the information to the state Department of Education, which could take action involving Joyner's teaching certification. Alexander said incoming Nature Coast principal Sonya Jackson, currently a senior school district administrator, has already started the process of looking for a new football coach at the school.
But even with so much ahead, the incident — and the resulting fallout — has weighed heavily on the mind of Alexander.
"I'm disappointed," Alexander said. "Whenever kids get hurt, I'm disappointed."
Joel Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6120.