One of the stars of the top-ranked Oregon State Beavers baseball team is making national headlines after a report uncovered his status as a registered sex offender.
An article published Thursday morning revealed that junior pitcher Luke Heimlich pleaded guilty to first-degree child molestation in 2012 when he was 15 years old in his hometown of Puyallup, Washington, in a case dealing with abuse of a family member who court documents revealed was only 4 when the molestation started.
The story broke less than 48 hours before the Beavers, currently ranked No. 1 in the country, are set to host the NCAA Super Regional in a game against Vanderbilt Friday at Goss Stadium in Corvallis.
According to the Pierce County Juvenile Court, Heimlich was sentenced in 2012 to time served in a juvenile facility with no additional incarceration and two years participation in the Sex Offenders Disposition Alternative, or SODA, program, which included outpatient sex offender treatment. He was also required to register as a sex offender.
Officials in Pierce County noted that Heimlich fully complied with and completed the SODA program requirements and was no longer required to be a part of the program.
Heimlich moved to Corvallis to attend OSU in 2014, and according to Oregon law, sex offenders have to re-register every year or if they move.
State police said Heimlich failed to do that this year, however, and failing to register is a misdemeanor crime. Officials with the Benton County District Attorney’s office said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Heimlich, though, so deputies just cited him.
Heimlich has since registered and is now in compliance.
Heimlich, who is now 21, has been a standout pitcher for OSU this season. He was named the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year on June 1, and Baseball America currently projects him to be picked 43rd in the Major League Baseball draft set for later this month.
Students on campus in Corvallis said the news is unsettling, and they wonder why they haven’t heard about it before.
“I mean, obviously the story is really disturbing,” OSU student Evan Lepire said. “You know, I’’m not sure what to think of it.”
Sports writer Bob Lundeberg with Corvallis Gazette-Times knows the team well.
"I just think it's disappointing to have one of the star players on the team involved in something like this," said Lundeberg. "It was definitely the quietest practice I've seen from the region state team I've seen all year, I can say that for sure."
Lundeberg says he was stunned and saddened when he found out that Heimlich was a register sex offender.
"If he is to pitch this weekend, I think there will be mixed signals throughout the stadium, I really do," Lundeberg said.
Steve Clark, Oregon State vice president for university relations, provided a statement to FOX 12 calling the report disturbing.“Oregon State University in no way condones the conduct as reported and that we understand was addressed years ago by the judicial system in the state of Washington.”Clark also noted in his statement that all OSU students, including student athletes, face the same “academic criteria, admissions standards, codes of conduct and community standards” when applying for the university.
He added that Oregon State follows the U.S. Department of Education recommendations for colleges to not have criminal history disproportionately affect a student’s access to higher education and opportunities for a better life.
The statement noted that there are protocols in place when school officials learn a student is a sex offender in keep other students safe.Upon learning that a student is a registered sex offender, representatives from Oregon State Student Affairs and the Department of Public Safety meet with the student immediately and coordinate with other departments as needed to mitigate risks associated with their attendance at the university.In the case of student athletes, one of the risk mitigation measures taken is that the deputy athletic director for administration and senior woman administrator is notified of the registered sex offender status and risk mitigation. Under the university’s practices, students who are listed as registered sex offenders are prohibited from living in Oregon State residence halls and from working directly with minors through any of our student employment, teaching, volunteer or outreach programs.Some students told FOX 12 Thursday that Heimlich should’ve known the rules in Oregon.
“If I was to commit a crime, I would definitely have my stuff together as to know what I’m responsible for, and he failed to do that,” student Jess Dally said.
While team officials have yet to say if his playing time will suffer, some students wonder if Heimlich is a bad choice to be a role model representing Beaver baseball.
Oregon State President Ed Ray also weighed in on the matter, stating that the “safety and security of our students” was the university’s top priority.“I want to make clear that each day the safety and security of our students at Oregon State University is our number one priority. Our policies and procedures provide a safe learning environment for our community and seek to ensure that all prospective and current students are treated fairly and equitably.”Copyright 2017 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.