Update June 28: Family members Thursday night positively identified the body as being that of Michael Speich.
The Cumberland County school teacher, county commissioner and cross country coach under investigation for sexual battery by an authority figure involving former students was believed to have been found dead in a pasture on his Westel Loop farm Thursday afternoon.
If it is Michael Eugene Speich, 55, Westel Rd., he apparently died of a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head. The identity of the body found will be confirmed by the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Nashville, District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway said.
His body was found shortly after 2:30 p.m. Thursday by neighbors. It appeared his body may have been in the pasture for a short period of time prior to being discovered.
The death comes as the District Attorney General’s Office was leading the questioning of dozens or more parents, former students — some who now are adults — and witnesses who potentially would have information on the expanding investigation. It was confirmed that more than 80 potential witnesses/victims had been called for interviews on Tuesday and/or Wednesday.
Dunaway confirmed Thursday that new victims have come forward and his office, along with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office — with close cooperation of the Cumberland County Schools — were working lengthy hours on the case.
Speich was indicted by the Cumberland County Grand Jury June 24 on charges of sexual battery by an authority figure, alternate theory sexual battery by an authority figure and furnishing alcohol for a minor.
Speich was taken into custody on Roane Medical Dr. in Harriman shortly before 2 p.m. that same day. He was taken to the Cumberland County Justice Center, where he was processed and held for about two hours before posting a $100,000 bond. He was scheduled to appear in Criminal Court July 8 for “read-out of the indictment,” also called arraignment.
Since that time District Attorney Office Investigators Chris Isom and Randal Slayton, TBI special agents and Sheriff’s Investigator David Bowman have been conducting interviews at the DA’s office on Fourth St.
While that was going on, the Chronicle received a copy of search warrants issued for the home on Westel Rd., the farm on Westel Loop and a storage building off Hwy. 68, which included a statement of facts as to why the search warrants were being sought and warrant returns on what was seized.
The statement of facts outlines a timeline in the case indicted involving a former student who was age 17 at the time of the incidents.
The timeline established includes the following:
•At the end of December 2018, the father of a student reported that he was given three Mason jars of moonshine as a “Christmas present.”
•The father confronted Speich at the time, and Speich reportedly apologized and said it would not happen again.
•On May 30, the father reported the incident to Stone Memorial High School Principal Scott Maddox.
•June 6, DA Investigator Randal Slayton became aware that allegations had been made that Speich had provided alcohol to a minor.
•June 7, Slayton interviewed the student who said he knew Speich as a cross country team coach and also knew one of Speich’s daughters. During that interview it was learned the teacher/coach and student had started exchanging text messages in December. Those messages had been removed from Speich’s phone but had been saved on his iCloud account and were accessed through Speich’s computer.
It was learned through text messages and statements that a “date” was set up and, in exchange for a gift, Speich would be allowed to “tickle” the student’s feet. Text messages and conversations escalated and led to meetings at different locations where feet tickling escalated into restraints and activities of a more sexual nature.
A second student — a former student of Speich’s in the sixth grade — was also interviewed. His experiences — minus the alcohol — were much the same, but his case on his behalf had not been presented to the jury.
•June 24, the case was rushed to the Grand Jury and a true bill, or indictment, was handed down, resulting in Speich’s arrest.
•In August, additional evidence was expected to be presented to that session of the grand jury that could lead to new additional and more serious charges.
The statement of facts includes information from the two teens of a very graphic and sexually specific nature that was not quoted by the Chronicle in the previously story out of discretion for the ongoing investigation and to protect the victims.
In searches of Speich’s home, his farm and a storage building at another location, four computers, two cellphones, a mattress cover, bailing twine and rope were seized.
It is believed the computers held an abundance of video and photographic evidence, along with text messaging, that would be detrimental to Speich.
Dunaway said he would have a statement once confirmation of the identity of the victim found is made by the medical examiner.
Speich is survived by his wife and two daughters.