NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A registered sex offender is accused of filming women as they tanned at a Norfolk gym.
According to federal court documents, James Eddy III admitted to videotaping 15 to 20 women from December to January at the Planet Fitness location on E. Little Creek Road. He is charged with peeping into an occupied dwelling.
“I don’t know what possesses somebody to do that, but I just want more women to be aware,” said Melanie Sampson, a victim who reported the peeping to police.
Sampson said the incident occurred in early January. As she was preparing to enter the tanning booth, she heard some “scuffling” but assumed it was commotion from a business next door.
But as she exited the booth, the noise persisted. She glanced up and “saw the finger through the ceiling tile.”
According to court documents, Eddy stated during a lie detector test in February that he’d hide in the ceiling and maintain a vantage point there to film nude women.
10 On Your Side learned that Eddy is required to submit to the tests as a condition of his supervised release. The supervision began in 2013, after he pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography and had to register as a sex offender.
Court documents claim investigators discovered the child pornography after executing a search warrant of Eddy’s home in 2010. The warrant was the result of a woman claiming she had been filmed while tanning at a salon in Chesapeake.
Sampson said the incident has left her feeling “violated.” A week after it occurred, her husband deployed.
“It’s emotional,” she said.
Sampson is further shaken after seeing Eddy’s mugshot, and recognizing him as the man who approached her at the gym directly after the incident.
After seeing the finger coming from the ceiling, she screamed and left the booth as soon as she got dressed. A man she recognized as Eddy walked out of the booth next door.
“And immediately said to me, ‘Are you okay? I heard you scream.'”
“He [later] came up to me while I was sitting, waiting for Norfolk PD, to ask me if I needed anything,” she recounts. “Put his hand on my shoulder and he asked if I was okay.”
Monday, 10 On Your Side went to Eddy’s listed home address on Tarpon Place, less than a mile from the gym. No one answered the door.
A spokeswoman for Planet Fitness, Becky Zirlen, sent 10 On Your Side the following statement:
The safety of our members is paramount at Planet Fitness, and we take these matters very seriously. We quickly and fully cooperated with police in this matter and are pleased that an arrest has been made in this case.”
“Planet Fitness went above and beyond as far as making sure I felt safe to go back in there,” Sampson said.
She won’t return to the tanning booths, but said she will continue to use the fitness center.
“I didn’t want him to change my life so much that I take away something I enjoy,” she said.
She wanted to share her story to remind other women to be alert.
“It can happen anywhere you go,” she said. “Just be more aware of your surroundings.”
According to the federal court documents, Eddy told police that he did not target anyone specifically, and only videotaped adult women.
The documents state he claimed to have deleted the videos, threw away the camcorder and “denied transferring the videos to another device, uploading them to the Internet, or allowing anyone else to see them.”
10 On Your Side is working to learn whether investigators seized any footage, and if customers have a way to determine whether they may have been filmed.
Eddy is due back in court later this month.