Neighbors defend former soccer coach accused of sex abuse

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ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. -  

Neighbors of a Charlotte youth soccer coach accused of sexually abusing a young boy are coming to his defense.

Neighbors in suspect Ralph Wager's Southeast Charlotte neighborhood called Wager, 69, friendly and always willing to help.

"I can't believe. No, I can't believe," said Galina Kogan, who said she's lived next door to Wager in their community off Independence for 12 years. "I never see anything bad about him. No, no, he is good neighbor and good people."

Rowan County deputies arrested Wager on charges of sex offenses and indecent liberties Tuesday. He's accused of sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy more than 20 years ago.

Deputies said the abuse started while Wager was coaching soccer at Catawba College. The alleged victim told investigators he was at a sports camp when Wager started to abuse him in 1987 and that abuse lasted two years. Investigators said the alleged victim finally decided to come forward when he Googled the suspect's name and saw that he was still working with children.

Eyewitness News checked and found that Wager had recently coached for the Steele Creek Soccer Club, working with 9 and 10-year-olds. On Wednesday, the director of the club had no comment about the allegations.

Some of Wager's neighbors who have children and grandchildren called the news disturbing.

"I don't like the idea of this situation. I want my grandkids to be free to go outside and play and be comfortable," said neighbor Lolita Dale.

Wager had his first court appearence Wednesday. Officials told Eyewitness News his bond was set at $500,000, and as of Wednesday night he had not been released from prison.