Subscribe to Breaking News emails

You have successfully subscribed to the Breaking News email.

Subscribe today to be the first to to know about breaking news and special reports.

Larry Nassar's victims now focused on MSU, USA Gymnastics

by Tracy Connor and Kathryn Berg /  / Updated 

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

When Larissa Boyce walked into the Eaton County, Michigan courtroom on Monday, she already knew that former tormentor Larry Nassar would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

The onetime USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor had been previously sentenced to 60 years for child porn, and 40 to 175 years for sexual abuse in neighboring Ingham County. And his plea agreement called for him to get another 40 to 125 years for molesting girls in Eaton County.

Still, as soon as Boyce heard Judge Janice Cunningham impose the expected penalty, it felt like "a huge weight was lifted off."

"I feel like I can finally breathe," she told NBC News after the hearing that marked the end of the third and last criminal case in the scandal stemming from Nassar's abuse of patients — from Olympic gymnasts to local soccer players

"I don't have to face him any more," she added. "Obviously, I have to deal with all the pain and emotions I'm till dealing with but it’s a huge weight off my shoulders, knowing he will never ever be able to hurt another little girl."

Image: Larissa Boyce makes a statement during the sentencing hearing
Larissa Boyce speaks during the sentencing hearing of Larry Nassar.Rebecca Cook / Reuters

Boyce was a 16-year-old gymnast at an MSU youth program when she first encountered Nassar in 1997. She is the first known person to have raised the alarm about a "treatment" that involved penetrating girls and young women with his bare hand.

After she complained, Boyce says, MSU gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages "humiliated and berated" her in front of her teammates. And then Klages allegedly told Nassar, who brought it up to the teen. The young gymnast apologized.

"And he continued to abuse me for the next couple of years," Boyce said.

Related: Eight times Larry Nassar could have been stopped

Boyce said she knows that if someone had believed her in 1997, Nassar could have been stopped, and there would not have been more than 200 women giving victim impact statements during sentencing hearings in two counties.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

Some of those women were in the courtroom on Monday as Nassar was sentenced for a third time.

There was Rachel Denhollander, a mother of three from Kentucky who in 2016 became the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse and who is now the face of a movement to hold the institutions where he worked accountable.

"I am grateful the criminal proceedings are finished," she said. "I am greatly disappointed that we have finished the criminal proceedings without seeing any responsibility taken by the institutions that let this happen."

Image: Rachael Denhollander addresses the media following the final phase of sentencing
Rachael DenhollanderRena Laverty / AFP - Getty Images

There was Katie Black, an MSU student who made a last-minute decision to speak at the hearing and told her story while her father sobbed uncontrollably next to her.

"It was kind of terrifying to face the person who abused you head-on," she said of her moment in the spotlight.

"We were just little girls"

"We were just little girls"

And there was Melissa Vigogne, who was first treated by Nassar in 1999 and traveled from France for her chance to look him in the eye before he was locked away forever.

"I needed to see him for who he really was," she said.

She said her flashbacks are no longer of a respected doctor in the exam room where he was worshiped by broken athletes but of a convicted pedophile in his orange jail jumpsuit forced to listen to his victims.

"The power has shifted," she said.

Image: Katie Black gives her victim impact statement
Katie Black with her father and coach during the sentencing hearing.Rebecca Cook / Reuters

The women were united in their praise of Angie Povilaitis, the prosecutor from the Michigan Attorney General's office, and Det. Lt. Andrea Dunford, the MSU sex-crimes investigator who built the case against Nassar after Denhollander's initial report.

"They're our heroes," Boyce said. "They're the first ones that believed us. I love them."

And they were just as undivided in their criticism of MSU and USA Gymnastics, which are defending themselves against a growing mountain of lawsuits. Both deny accusations that they ignored years of red flags that Nassar was a predator.

"I know I probably wouldn't have been hurt if other people had stepped up," Black said. "I'm really disappointed we weren't listened to. We were just little girls."

Nassar might not have to listen to the victims any more, but they're not done talking.

"We've put a period at the end of the chapter today but it's just the first chapter and this has to continue," Vignone said.

"If we pretend like the problem is solved with these sentencings, that will be a tragedy."

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
MORE FROM news