Thousands of teenage boys and girls are taking on the new thrills in an extreme sport known as BMX, Bicycle Motocross. This subculture of kids are mounting, jumping and daring to new heights every day at hundreds of BMX dirt tracks around the country. And this year, the sport will debut in the Olympics.
It's an exciting time for the BMX fans and participants. But for some, there is pain: emotional pain left by one man. Cops say his name is Tom Gleason.
Law enforcement sources say Gleason was a single elderly man, who by day worked as a handyman in Sarasota, on Florida's southwest coast. By night, Gleason coached dozens of teenage boys for his BMX team called "For Him." One young team member said he felt good about the team's religious message.
"I was told what it meant by Tom," the victim said. "The team name For Him, meaning for God. I liked that I was racing for God."
There wasn't a religious message and no one ever saw Gleason pray, attend church or discuss his faith. But the team was just happy to have a nice coach and to have fun with their friends.
In their light blue racing shirts covered with puffy white clouds and a lightning bolt, the "For Him" team stood out at races statewide. Another young boy said, "All we did was race our bikes, practice and hang out with our friends. When you are a teenager, that's pretty much all you want to do."
But police say Tom Gleason had other plans.
Gleason soon won the trust of the boys on his team and their parents. In 2002, many of the team members would hang out at Gleason's home, which was an oasis for these BMX enthusiasts. His backyard, just a few miles from the Sarasota BMX track, was perfect for these teenage boys. Gleason's yard had dirt jumps and all the tools to tune up their valuable bikes.
"We would go to Tom's house and we would hang out there and work on our bikes, work on jumps," one team member said. "It was just a lot of fun." Fun, until Tom took advantage of these kids, according to police reports.
The team raced hard and like so many other times, a handful of the team players came home with Gleason after the races. It was usually late, and the kids were sore from hours of jumping and riding. One young boy recalled an event in the spring of 2002 when Gleason made unwanted advances. The boy said he collapsed into a bed at Gleason's house.
Shortly afterwards, "(Gleason) came in and gave me a massage and started to touch my private parts," he said. "I was confused, I was scared and I was afraid of what people would say."
That boy and so many others kept their similar incidents quiet until one mother caught wind of what was going on from her son. The boys gradually quit the team or didn't race as often. This mother knew something wasn't right and convinced her son to tell his heartbreaking story. She was sickened by what she learned.
Immediately, the mother of one of the young victims contacted police, kicking off an active sex crime investigation. Sgt. Chris Iorio of the Sarasota Sheriff's Office is working the case.
"We just happened by luck to get a kid to open up the can of worms," Iorio said. "And we got 25 to 30 victims who probably wouldn't have told anybody."
After a three week investigation, cops had enough evidence to arrest Gleason on molestation charges. They did and he confessed.
On tape, Gleason told police, "I did not go after this kid. It was not my intention."
He admitted to stroking and touching teenage boys.
"Obviously I'm not pleased with myself," Gleason said. "If I could reverse it all, I would in a heartbeat."
Gleason's arrest was a huge victory for the boys who teamed up and came forward to report the alleged molester.
But their victory didn't last as Gleason bonded out of jail and vanished. He has ties to other areas in Florida and in New York. Police have no doubt Gleason is probably preying on another young boy.
Since 2002, no one has seen or heard from Gleason. The young victims who are now young men still want Gleason to pay for his crimes.
"I think that he is a monster," one of the victims said. "He goes around preying on young boys just like he did with my friends and I. Was it 'For Him'? Or was it for Tom? I just want him caught."