In many of the files, the Boy Scouts learned of abuse by a Scouting leader or volunteer the same way as the rest of the general public: the spotlight of a newspaper headline or the glare of a television news story.
At that time, Scouting leaders sent a letter to the accused or convicted person, asking him to sever all ties with the organization. They also started an Ineligible Volunteer file and sent the information to the national office.
However, 41 Action News found a number of instances where the Boy Scouts did not report alleged child molesters to police. The men were removed from the Scouts, but never faced a criminal investigation because the allegations stayed within the organization.
One case detailed graphic depictions of abuse by the Scout leader of a Liberty troop back in Sept., 1973.
The file included letters written by the parents of three 13-year-old-boys. One of the teens even documented his experience at the 28-year-old Scout leader’s farm in northern Missouri, where he says all of the assaults occurred.
“I didn’t fight him because I figured that since he had this one mental problem, I thought that if I didn’t do what he wanted, he might brutally hit or maybe even kill me,” wrote one of the teens. “I didn’t run away because I was too far from home and didn’t know the place that I was.”
Despite the corroborating statements from all of the boys, there was no indication in any of the letters of pursuing criminal charges. The main goal seemed to be removing the Scout leader from all Scouting activities.
“It is desirable of all parents that psychiatric help be sought by (the accused molester),” wrote a Troop leader who interviewed all the parents and boys.
Julie Donelon, the president of the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA), said the parents’ reaction to the abuse is not surprising, given the time period.
In the 1970s, Donelon said many of the instances “stayed within the family.” Mandatory reporting laws had just started to take shape.
“It wasn’t something that we spoke about openly to others,” Donelon said. “The parents didn’t want additional light being shed on their family or their child. They wanted to keep it a secret because it was a taboo subject.”
Reached at his home in Pennsylvania, one of the alleged victims told 41 Action News he remembers the adults deciding it would be best for the kids not to have to recount the memories during a trial.
“They told us that we had been traumatized enough,” said the man, who had no idea his father had written a letter included in the file. “They kept telling us they were going to get him help. I have no idea if that ever happened.”
Records show the accused molester bounced around to several states—South Dakota, Texas and Alaska—and currently lives in rural New Mexico. There is no evidence he has a criminal record or if he reentered Scouting after being removed in Missouri.
After receiving the confidential file from 41 Action News, the alleged victim living in Pennsylvania contacted authorities in northern Missouri to see if anything could be done. He learned the statute of limitations had likely expired.
“I would bet an enormous sum of money he continued abusing kids,” the man said. “I’m convinced he probably didn’t start with us and I’m sure he didn’t end with us.”
Currently in Missouri, the law states that prosecutions for sex crimes against children must be commenced within 30 years after the victim turns 18 years old. There is no statute of limitations for forcible rape, forcible sodomy and kidnapping.
However, in the 1970s, the statute of limitations was much shorter.
“If that time limit ever expired, it can’t be revived,” said Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd. “It’s game over. There’s unfortunately nothing that can be done retroactively and no law that can be passed to change that.”
It is a frustrating reality to the former Scout living in Pennsylvania. He told 41 Action News he would have pursued prosecution much earlier if he had been aware of the corroborating stories documented through handwritten letters. He had always assumed it was his word against his accused molester’s word.
“Basically, it feels like our statute of limitation laws are protecting known pedophiles,” he said.