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Cuyahoga County dance teacher charged with sex crimes against former students

A once revered and respected local dance teacher has now officially been indicted in Cuyahoga...
A once revered and respected local dance teacher has now officially been indicted in Cuyahoga County. He’s accused of raping and sexually assaulting his former students, some of them minors at the time.(Cassie Cotter)
Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 7:21 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2021 at 10:33 PM EDT
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CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio (WOIO) - A once revered and respected local dance teacher has been officially indicted in Cuyahoga County. He’s accused of raping and sexually assaulting his former students, some of them minors at the time.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley called 35-year-old Desmond Beasley a “sexual predator” who preyed on students from his dance studio for years. The prosecutor said now he’s finally going to pay for what he did. Beasley is not behind bars, but a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

19 News rarely identifies victims of sexual assault, but Cassie Cotter wanted to come forward and reached out to us with her story last year.

“Coming forward and speaking about this has been one of the hardest things I’ve done, but I can’t tell you how much weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Cotter said. “Every day, I feel a step closer to a peace of mind and justice.”

A year later, Cotter is finally getting justice. Investigators said sharing her story on 19 News led to more victims coming forward and more police departments investigating her former dance teacher.

“I was at the studio nearly every day of the week, and it was my outlet,” explained Cotter. “It was my safe space. It was my happy place. I won’t lie even since the assault occurred; I haven’t been able to get back into the studio.”

Cotter was only 10 years old she met the man that would forever change her life, her dance instructor at Dance Dance Dance in Parma, 35-year-old Desmond Beasley.

“He really took a lot away from me,” Cotter admitted. “So many people looked up to him, and he has just broken the hearts of so many young ladies, and I just hope he knows that.”

She says what started out as inappropriate Snapchats and text messages quickly escalated into a full-blown sexual assault her freshman year of college in 2017.

“Him just undressing me and groping next, and no matter how many times I asked him to stop, to get off of me, he would constantly keep telling me to be quiet and that he did this with all of his girlfriends,” Cotter said.

In 2019 Cotter reported the inappropriate messages and her sexual assault to Garfield Heights police. After that, more victims of the dance teacher came forward, making reports in Garfield Heights, Parma, Berea, and Athens.

Throughout the more than yearlong investigation, police discovered Beasley used social media to send sexually explicit images and chats to underage girls – all of which were his former dance students.

“From there he would see how us young ladies would react to that, and if we weren’t off-putting of it, he would then go forth and start sending complete nude photographs of himself to us, and this went on for a long time, and it was always every time oh that was a mistake, or I’m a little too drunk, I’m so sorry.”

Beasley was eventually let go from several local dance studios, when they learned of his alleged behavior. So, he set his sights on photography.

The police investigation revealed Beasley used his photography career to lure his victims into taking inappropriate photos – some of those incidents occurred when the victims were underage. Cotter experienced that firsthand.

“Then he would soon start buying me things to wear, making me take my clothes off more,” explained Cotter.

Cotter became his so-called muse. She says they would do shoots almost weekly. She was 16 at the time.

“At that time, he was helping me send my pictures out to different modeling agencies in Cleveland and Chicago and New York, and they were all reaching back out to me, so it was quickly becoming a dream of mine, and I never wanted to tell him no because he was helping me achieve that dream,” said Cotter.

Beasley is accused of sexually assaulting three victims; two of those victims were juveniles at the time of the assaults. Investigators also discovered child pornography in his email accounts.

Prosecutors say the incidents started back in September 2013 and happened as recently as February of this year.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Jennifer King says if any other victims are watching, they are still open to investigating, so contact their office.

“Especially when it comes to children and girls who look up to dance teachers and people who are in positions of authority, watching them groom these girls, yeah, it’s disgusting,” King said.

Beasley is facing nine counts of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, eight counts of illegal use of minor in nudity-oriented material or performance, nine counts of gross sexual imposition, eight counts of rape, four counts of sexual battery, one count of attempted rape, and two counts of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor.

Beasley’s victims range in age from 13 to 18 years old, but as we saw with cotter, Beasley started grooming her at a much earlier age, she says when she was just 10 years old.

Beasley is not in custody; he has not responded to these charges, but a warrant has been issued for his arrest. Check back into 19 News for updates.

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