Apparently, I’m a rape sympathizer.
That’s what several of the fine folks on Twitter say at least. I’ve been flooded with private messengers telling me so.
All because I expressed my sadness while sharing a story on a recently arrested former teacher and boys varsity basketball coach — someone I had gotten to know over the past year.
I love my job. It’s allowed me to form many wonderful relationships, including ones with coaches who I’ve grown to respect and admire.
So it crushes me when I personally have to report on their transgressions.
Ex-Fruitland principal and boys varsity basketball coach Mike Fitch, who was recently acquitted of sexual battery charges, was my teacher and football coach in high school.
It happened again last week.
I was enjoying a boys soccer match on a cool Wednesday evening with undefeated Boise hosting Timberline when my phone vibrated in my pocket. It was a tip that simply read: “Ada County Sheriff. You didn’t see it from me.”
I was confused at first. So I quickly replied with, “What about Ada County Sheriff?” And then it dawned on me. I typed in “Ada County Sheriff” into my search bar. I clicked on “arrest” and scrolled through. I didn’t know what I was looking for until I saw it.
My heart sank.
Jeff Ranstrom’s mugshot popped up.
The former Eagle High School teacher and boys varsity basketball coach had been arrested on suspicion of one count of rape, sexual battery of a minor aged 16 or 17 years old, sexual exploitation of a minor, and two counts of burglary.
Ranstrom has since admitted to having a lengthy sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.
I had gotten to know Jeff over the last year — at least I thought I did. It was on accident, too.
I was in need of a story idea. So I reached out to my Twitter followers. A coach dropped the name, “Tanner Hayhurst,” a now soon-to-be senior guard with a Division I offer from Idaho State.
I called Jeff up and introduced myself before asking what he thought about the idea. He was on board.
I first met Jeff in February. He came up to me while at a junior varsity girls basketball game. His 6-year-old son was next to him. He had just picked him up from school.
We walked back to his office where Tanner was waiting.
I was just about ready to conclude my interview when Jeff revealed he had just come back to coaching following the death of his newborn son. Nothing against Tanner, but I realized Jeff’s was the story of the Eagle boys basketball team to tell.
After Tanner left, I respectfully asked Jeff if he would be willing to share his story with me. He was happy to.
I listened for an hour as he divulged the gut-wrenching details of the day his son died at 3 months old from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome. Jeff was the one who found him face down, motionless.
“It was just kind of a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness really,” he told me in the interview. “There was nothing at that point I could do.”
I teared up. I could relate. Fourteen months earlier, I’d nearly lost my daughter, Everly. She was born eight weeks premature and had to spend a month in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Jeff and I talked for almost another hour about our experiences after the recorder went off. I thought of the story as one of my most meaningful to write. It’s tainted now.
A week later, while I was covering Eagle at the state tournament, Jeff thanked me for the story and told me his family had received a lot of support because of it.
It’s moments like that why I do this job.
We kept in touch over the ensuing months. The first thing he always asked me was, “How is your daughter doing?” That always stuck with me.
So imagine my shock in reading those horrendous charges. How could somebody who took an interest in my daughter’s well-being do that? I felt sick to my stomach. I still do.
I broke the news on Twitter. “I’m still reeling myself,” I said in the post, “because I just did a story about his return to coaching after tragedy in March.”
Certain people had a problem with that. And they’ll probably have a problem with this too.
Perhaps if I would have phrased it as, “Here are the details from this monster and a sorry excuse for a human being,” maybe I wouldn’t have received so much hate.
But I’m not that kind of person. And what good does that really do?
What he’s accused of and admitted to doing is reprehensible. There’s no arguing that.
My heart goes out to the victim and her family.
My purpose here isn’t to humanize or defend Jeff Ranstrom. The point is to provide an understanding of what I and I’m sure the other people who knew Jeff felt like in that moment.
How would you feel if someone you had come to admire suddenly had a fall from grace like this?
So am I still a rape sympathizer?
No, I’m human.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
AUSTIN BOLT, SR., QB, BORAH
Bolt showed exactly why he has Division I offers from Boise State and Utah State in Borah’s 42-35 win over Capital Thursday night. He accounted for more than 83 percent of the team’s 420 yards of total offense with 350 by himself.
The three-star prospect according to 247Sports, ran for 289 yards and six touchdowns on 44 carries. Bolt also completed 8-of-13 passes for 61 yards. Capital had 244 yards of total offense as a team.
LEXI HAWS, JR., F, KUNA
Haws totaled five goals last week in wins over Emmett and Middleton.
She pulled off the hat trick with three goals to go along with two assists in an 11-2 win against Emmett on Oct. 1 before adding two more in a 3-0 victory over Middleton Thursday.
GAME OF THE WEEK
KUNA (6-0 overall, 5-0 4A SIC) AT BISHOP KELLY (5-1, 5-1), 7 P.M.
Another top-5 matchup in the 4A Southern Idaho Conference for the second straight week. That’s how good the league is this year.
No. 1 Kuna is fresh off a road win over Vallivue, which was ranked fourth. The Kavemen will once again have to face another top-5 opponent on the road. Only this may be their biggest challenge of the season.
They’ve lost 12 straight games to the Knights, who should come in at No. 3 this week. Kuna’s last win against them came in 2007. But a win, coupled with a Middleton victory over Nampa, will essentially give the Kavemen their first ever 4A SIC title.