By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

Prosecutors now believe a Bend gymnastics coach suspected of sexually abusing two young girls at a New Year’s Eve sleepover may have abused four or more girls.

Richard Gustafson, 49, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Deschutes County Circuit Court on nine counts of first-degree sexual abuse.

Bend Police began investigating Gustafson, one of the owners of Acrovision Sports Center, after receiving a report that an 8-year-old girl had been abused during a sleepover at the center. A second suspected victim, a 9-year-old girl, had been identified by the time Gustafson was arrested Jan. 8.

In court Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Jon Char told Circuit Court Judge Stephen Forte investigators have discovered two more suspected victims. The two new suspected victims were allegedly abused prior to the New Year’s Eve party, Char said, and are girls between the ages of 8 and 10. Additional victims may still be identified, he said. Police said 51 children attended the New Year’s Eve sleepover this month.

Gustafson’s attorney, Jon Springer, asked Forte to consider releasing his client from custody. Gustafson is currently being held at the Deschutes County jail on $300,000 bail and would need $30,000 to be released.

Gustafson is an “excellent candidate” for conditional release, Springer said. Springer described how Gustafson has been a coach in the community for 20 years and held sleepovers at Acrovision four times a year during that period with no allegations of misbehavior until now.

Springer said Gustafson has no criminal record, aside from an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol in Lane County in 1986.

“He’s a positive, contributing member of the community, your honor,” Springer said.

Char said Forte should instead consider raising Gustafson’s bail to $500,000, in light of the additional suspected victims that have been located since his arrest.

Springer said Gustafson is not a flight risk and that his family has assembled $10,000 that they could contribute to meeting his bail.

Forte declined to make any decision on Gustafson’s release Wednesday and has scheduled a hearing to consider his release today.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,