Thursday, December 11, 2014

Third Victim Alleges Molestation in Wyoming Case Against Bill Bricker

A December 4, 2014 Associated Press article HERE references a third person in the Wyoming charges against William H. [Bill] Bricker. Some thought it might be a typo, since most of us were only aware that two victims had come forward to be part of the Wyoming case. 

The dates listed are now 1962, 1968, and 1985. The alleged victims are two boys ['62 and '85] and a girl ['68]. 

If only the statute of limitations in Illinois hadn't run out.




Monday, December 8, 2014

Family Service of Winnetka/Northfield • 847-446-8060

The trauma of molestation can be compounded by years of secrecy and shame. As a result of the recent arrest of Bill Bricker, the Family Service of Winnetka/Northfield [LINK] is offering Winnetka and Northfield residents a free private session with a therapist to discuss any issues surrounding previous or current sexual abuse. 

The recent arrest of one of Winnetka's most trusted teachers, scout leaders, and Wyoming camp counselors has enabled a number of his alleged victims to come forward for the first time. 


However, the detailed coverage of the myriad newspaper stories can often evoke difficult memories for anyone who has ever been a victim of molestation. So this counseling service is available to all Winnetka/Northfield residents who have been dealing with sexual abuse.  


During the one-time free session, residents can discuss their options for therapy or other services that are available. This is an opportunity for residents to talk about their feelings in a confidential and safe environment with compassionate professionals. Perhaps for the very first time. 


To make an appointment with Family Service of Winnetka/Northfield, call 847-446-8060. Ask for the intake therapist. This organization is an excellent resource that many Winnetka and Northfield residents may not know about. If you have been sexually abused, we hope you take advantage of their services. 


LOCATION: 992 1/2 Green Bay Road, Winnetka • West side of the Street, behind the Thrift Shop [across from O'Neil's] Call for an appointment


WEBSITE: www.familyservicewn.org


MISSION: Helping people through life's challenges and transitions by providing counseling, therapy, and community education.

  
NOTE: If you live outside Winnetka or Northfield and are not eligible for the free session, another helpful group to call is the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE. They can link you with services available in other communities throughout the country. 

  

Bricker's Alleged $500,000 Bequest to Teton Valley Ranch Camp to be Rejected

There has been an update in a Jackson Hole News & Guide story by Emma Breysse about Bill Bricker. A sidebar has been added which says:  


Bricker's bequest to be rejected
Current directors of Teton Valley Ranch Camp intend to reject a $500,000 pledge of support for the camp from a longtime volunteer accused of molesting two campers.
Bill Bricker, 94, faces charges stemming from the accusations.
In 2001, the Jackson Hole Guide reported that Bricker donated $500,000 to the camp shortly before the organization moved from Kelly to Dubois.
A spokeswoman for the Teton Valley Ranch Camp Education Foundation, which currently runs the camp, clarified in an email that “the pledge was never formalized” and was to be fulfilled from Bricker’s estate following his death.
“We have no knowledge of his current plans for his estate and even upon his death, in light of the allegations, TVRC-EF would reject the bequest,” the email reads.

Given the amount of the bequest and the fact that Bricker is still alive, someone could sue to get those dollars for the victims. Just my two cents' worth.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Update on Bricker Extradition Hearing of 12-4-14

Welcome to our hurry up and wait justice system. Bill Bricker's next hearing (not yet scheduled) will follow an evaluation to determine his competency to stand trial. This request was granted to the prosecution, apparently. The Chicago Tribune sent a reporter to the hearing, so we hope to see coverage shortly.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Going to the December 4th Hearing in Michigan?

I wanted to attend the Bill Bricker hearing, but I would rather be spending the time with my family, so that's where I will be on December 4th. 

The hearing for Bill Bricker's extradition to Wyoming is on December 4th at 9 AM. See location details provided in the comment section.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We Pause for a Moment

Any one else find perverse amusement, laced with ironic comeuppance, in the growing Bill Cosby scandal? 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Bill Bricker • 1992 Man of the Year

One of the other items I found in Bill Bricker's Board of Education records was some newspaper coverage of his Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year Award. From 1992. You can see how a faction of Winnetka was [and still is] in his thrall. In order to be selected, one has to be nominated. A long time member of the Winnetka Chamber of Commerce owns the local sporting goods store. He has also been the scoutmaster of Winnetka Troop 20 since 1964, four years before the first reports of alleged molestation by Bricker, a fellow scoutmaster of Winnetka Troop 18 in 1968. One can only wonder who nominated Bricker. And consider the irony. 




Sunday, November 9, 2014

Captain or Lieutenant Bricker?

Writing the third installment of the Bricker Backstory isn't going well. I have started and stopped three different times. More pressing issues keep coming up. Like should we send a contingent to his extradition hearing in December? 

For now, instead of the next installment, here's something else. Bill Bricker has been referred to by some as a Marine Captain in WWII. I have made the same mistake. At the time, I remember thinking that the rank of Captain sounded like an exaggeration for an enlisted man, even if he went to Officer Candidate's School. My father was a WWII Captain in the Army, but that's because he was a doctor. I think the rank of Captain was given to lawyers, engineers, and others with advanced degrees. Like professional courtesy or something. But second lieutenant was usually the rank for regular college grads who made it out of OCS. At least during Viet Nam. 

On Bricker's resume for Hubbard Woods School, he writes that the highest rank he achieved was First Lieutenant. In the acknowledgement for his Silver Star, which we found on a military site, it says he was a Second Lieutenant, which no doubt refers to his rank in combat at the time. We have not found a date for his promotion to First Lieutenant, which may have been a field promotion. 

[Click to enlarge]




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Bill Bricker Backstory Part II

NOTE: Part II has been updated, but needs more editing and it's missing some links. So please bear with me. Also, keep in mind, this is not a news account, but a personal commentary and all that implies.

So what do you do when a friend says he's been molested by everyone's favorite scoutmaster? If you're me, you want to tell the authorities. But which ones? The cops? The Boy Scouts? The Board of Education? A reporter? I tried all of them. For the last twenty years, nobody who could do anything -- who should have done something -- gave a shit. Nobody.

Twenty years ago [in the 1990's], my friend was very reluctant to come forward with his claims of sexual abuse from the 1950's. He's the man I call Ground Zero, because he was the first to tell me what allegedly transpired in Bill Bricker's tent during Boy Scout overnights. He insisted on remaining anonymous, unless we could find another scout who could corroborate the molestation by sharing his own experience. Without someone else, he couldn't bear the thought of standing alone to face the guaranteed backlash that occurs whenever you accuse someone that people admire of pedophilia. I find it interesting that most of the backlash since Bricker's arrest has been directed toward the reporters. As if they were making this stuff up.

At the time, I knew in my gut that my friend's experience was the tip of a huge iceberg. So I went to the Winnetka police to report what he had told me, even though he wasn't ready to come forward yet. They're TRAINED PROFESSIONALS -- allegedly -- maybe they had a way to get people to come forward. At least they could start an investigation. 

I was interviewed by a uniformed officer, not a detective. That should have been my first indication of their complete lack of interest. He sat and took notes on the back of a torn envelope -- not even an intake form -- another obvious clue that my story would be going into the circular file, shortly after I left. He may have even yawned. Our conversation ended with him announcing that the statute of limitations had passed, and I should not ever expect to hear from them one way or another. I never did. 

Note to Winnetka Cops -- you should have had protocols in place to handle any report of child abuse. But you didn't. Do you even know the responsibilities of a mandated reporter? Even though you claim to have no police files on Bricker going back to the Mayflower, we know from an attorney's letter in Bricker's Board of Education teacher file that Winnetka's Police Chief, Don Derning, talked to the family about the accusation in 1968. A handwritten timetable of events in the spring of 1968 also includes the notation "May 10 • Bill Bricker sees Don Derning." Sounds like a face-to-face Come to Jesus meeting to me.

Just how did that conversation go?

Chief Derning: Bill, I'm hearing some allegations from the Board of Education. Are they true? 

Bill Bricker: No.

Chief Derning: Okay then. I guess we're done here.

Bill Bricker continued teaching for seventeen more years. UPDATE: Make that more like 21 years. A closer examination of his salary payouts from the BOE reveals that while he retired on paper in 1985, he continued as a full-time substitute teacher at full salary for four more years, through 1989. 

After Bricker's arrest last month by deputies who took him to jail from a skilled nursing facility in Traverse City, MI, [LINK] the Winnetka police made a great show of handling a new report from a woman in her sixties who alleges that Bricker fondled her during indoor recess in 1958 [LINK]. 

Surprisingly, the Chicago Tribune included the graphic description of her alleged abuse contained in the police report [LINK]. With the hot light of publicity shining on them, this time the cops leaped into action to investigate the woman's report and called in the State's Attorney's sex crimes people. After pushing some paper around, they finally announced that there was nothing to do because the statute of limitations had passed. Case closed. If only the police had done half as much twenty years ago, Bricker would have been arrested and prosecuted well before his advanced age, his heart attack, and his failing health became an issue.  

But, they did nothing. 
 
As we have discovered, Bricker's BOE teacher file alone would have lent a boatload of credence to the abuse I was alleging. Enough to ignite an investigation. Have I mentioned twenty years ago?

Just an FYI, if the perpetrator is also a scout leader, you might want to contact the BSA's national office in Dallas. Ask whether the person is listed in their "Ineligible Volunteers" files. There's even a special department for questions about those people. But don't expect the BSA folks to fall all over themselves in an effort to cooperate. The "O" in Boy Scouts stands for OBFUSCATE. 

During their first 100 years, the BSA accumulated over 20,000 secret files they kept on adults in scouting who had crossed the line -- from "shouting at kids" [I'm quoting the BSA office and laughing out loud] to pedophilia. These I.V. files were forced out into the open by two major lawsuits [LINK]. The files I read all contain references to pedophile behavior. Despite the BSA's contention, there's no mention, I found, of anyone in an I.V. file who was removed from scouting for shouting at children. 

Even more disconcerting, like the ongoing Catholic priest debacle, Boy Scout criminal behavior with minors has rarely ever been reported to law enforcement, just monitored by the local or national BSA headquarters. 

Now referred to as "perversion files" [Google it], these Boy Scout I.V. folders were purged several years ago from a high of 20,000 to a mere 6,000 in a move that screams Cover Your Ass. When I searched, there were no files with Bill Bricker's name. I was incredulous, especially given the BOE revelations this month, revealing the claims of molestation against him. So when the scout leadership insists that 2014 is the first time they've had any reports about Bricker, I find their claims to be abundantly disingenuous. 

Twenty years ago, I contacted the local NE Council just to find out if Bricker was still attached to a troop. I was appalled to discover that he was. It is worth noting that according to his BOE teacher file, Bricker supposedly relinquished his leadership and active involvement in Troop 18 in early July of 1968, almost thirty years earlier. Except, not really.

Bricker's show of stepping down as scout master of Troop 18 took place not long after complaints against him were reported to the scouts, as well as the owners of Teton Valley Ranch Camp [who backed him 100% and said he would always have a job with them], and his bosses at the Winnetka Board of Education. 

Astonishingly, the School Board let Bricker continue teaching at Hubbard Woods, but no longer let him coach after school sports at Skokie Junior High, because the boy[s] who made the complaints against him would be there. The fox can stay in the chicken house as long as he stops sampling the meat -- metaphors intended. Let that astonishing example of a bureaucratic cluster fuck sink in. 


SIDEBAR: According to the October 27, 2014, Chicago Tribune, "One former student said she complained to her mother about Bricker in the 1980's, resulting in a meeting with the principal." Yet again, there is no record of any meeting about alleged molestation taking place. The principal's name was William Meuer. For some reason, despite allowing Bricker to continue teaching at Hubbard Woods School, Meuer currently serves as vice president of the school board for Winnetka's District 36. He refused comment to the Tribune via the school board attorney. 

I sent an email to the seven members of the Winnetka Board of Education for District 36 and suggested that William Meuer, resign -- effective immediately. As far as I am concerned, Meuer's presence on the board is an anathema to anyone seeking justice for William Bricker's decades of unfettered access to young children, aided and abetted by the school system. A representative from the board replied, saying they couldn't discuss the investigation, but that my email was important and would be forwarded to the Wyoming and Winnetka authorities. I replied that without my blog, the authorities would have no charges pending against Bricker. 

In 1968, the Board also scheduled an appointment for Bricker to see a shrink [Where is that evaluation? It was scheduled for June 12, 1968.]. From what I've read, the highlight of what passes for a BOE investigation was to ask Bricker about the boys' allegations of sexual abuse. In fact, that's apparently how the matter was always handled. Someone in authority would ask Bricker if the accusations were true. Then take him at his word. 

Accusations about Bricker's alleged behavior should have been reported to the National Boy Scouts. In fact, he should have been listed in the Ineligible Volunteer files and removed permanently from scouting. However, the Winnetka scouting community clearly chose to keep things among themselves. 

Once again nobody did anything to stop him.  

In the midst of all these allegations in the spring of 1968, it's interesting that Bricker, who was 48 and described by a former camper as a "confirmed bachelor," suddenly got engaged in July and then married three months later. The Winnetka scouting leadership allowed him to use his impending marriage, not the accusations of alleged molestation, as his excuse to gracefully step down from the leadership of Troop 18. Here's the paragraph they cobbled together:

"In view of his pending marriage, Bill Bricker has asked to be relieved of his responsibilities as Scoutmaster of Troop 18. After twenty years of service, the Troop Committee has reluctantly acceded to Bill's wishes, expressing the hope that his advice and counsel will continue to be available to the troop." 

As I said, not only was Bricker not fired as a teacher, he stayed on as a full time sub, when they could have let him ease on down the road and never teach in Winnetka again. He also continued as a camp counselor at Teton Valley Ranch Camp until 2002, retiring with great fanfare and a celebration [link to come]. Finally, despite the show of stepping down in 1968, he never left scouting. In fact there was an effort to get him a 50 year scouting certificate in 1988. [More about that in Backstory III.] On the other hand, his childless, and arguably, sham marriage formally ended in divorce in 1972, four years later. According to my sources, it's worth noting that his wife left after only 18 months.  

What about the other Winnetka Scout Leaders? The owner of T.L.Fritts Sporting Goods store in Winnetka, also a Marine like Bricker, has run Winnetka's popular Troop 20 since 1964, four years before Bricker [scoutmaster of Troop 18] was accused of inappropriate contact with a minor at Teton Valley Ranch Camp in Wyoming. 

Fritts was just honored in June of 2014 for 50 years of service to the Boy Scouts. Has anyone ever asked Fritts or any others scout leaders how much they knew about the rumors about Bricker and Troop 18 over the years? The men who ran Troop 18 knew. How could the men who ran Troop 20 not know? Not that Mr. Fritts would ever disparage a fellow Marine, especially a WWII hero who fought on Iwojima and received a Purple Heart and The Silver Star. 

Why am I so cynical? I spent some up close and personal time dealing with Troop 20's leader when he was Executive Director of the Winnetka Community house and Camp Douglas Smith in the 1970's. To say he ran things like a Marine who is used to giving orders and never giving in is not an exaggeration. I was in charge of the inaugural year of a huge fundraising event and he wasn't exactly warm and fuzzy to deal with. When the event was over, I presented him with a t-shirt that said, "Beneath this cold exterior, there beats a heart of stone." And I meant every word. His cooperation re: knowledge of Brickergate is out of the question, I am sure.  

Which gets me to the real issue -- is it possible that Fritts and the rest of the Winnetka Boy Scout leadership were aware of the accusations and deliberately didn't report Bricker to the national office of the BSA to have him removed permanently? What if there was a conspiracy of silence in collusion with law enforcement to prevent the community from learning the real reason why Bricker stepped down as scoutmaster of Troop 18? I'll let you draw your own conclusions. 

After my futile attempts to get help from the cops and the Boy Scouts, my next stop, again twenty years ago, was a phone call to the Winnetka Board of Education offices. That's when I first wanted Bricker's teaching file, which I expected to show that he had been fired for inappropriate behavior with a child. I was sure there would be a smoking gun. 

Nope. Not a chance, I was told. You can't have the file. This month, with Wyoming law enforcement breathing down their necks, the BOE just released everything in his file. As someone said at the BOE office, when I called to get my copy sent to me, "It's the right thing to do." Haaaa. Only when the world is watching, apparently. 

Twenty years ago, I was told by the BOE that I couldn't even get Bricker's teaching file using the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA]. That sounded wrong to me, but I didn't have the internet as a resource back then, so, while I felt stonewalled, I didn't know what else to do to get a copy. So I did nothing. I didn't even get the name of the woman who answered the phone. Or record the date I called. Very naive. 

Turns out that the School Board has been blowing smoke all this time, invoking a section of FOIA they claimed exempted them from providing anything from Bricker's file, until an attorney for one of Bricker's accusers pointed out that in cases of alleged child abuse, all bets are off. Sure they can redact personal information, but hand over the files already. To quote from the attorney's letter:

"The act or occurrence of sexual child abuse or molestation is not exempt under the Freedom of Information Act of School Records Act. While the FOIA and School Records Act may prohibit the disclosure of certain personal information, these statutes otherwise compel the disclosure of all non-exempt information. The District may not withhold entire documents from production merely because excerpts of those documents contain personal information."  

Busted! I should have been provided with Bricker's records twenty years before. 

Keep in mind that the attorney for the Winnetka school board was Martin Lucente [now deceased] who was a senior partner at Sidley and Austin, considered one of our nation's premiere law firms. Either Lucente didn't know the law or knew the information in Bricker's file wasn't exempt and advised the school system to invoke an exemption anyway.   

Only this month, with the release of the school records have I learned that the smoking gun I expected wasn't there. As I said, Bricker was never fired, despite claims of sexual abuse dating back to 1968. The real smoking gun is that the police chief met [separately] with Bricker and one family whose son made an accusation in 1968, and did nothing. According to the cops, there's also no record of any meeting between them in any police files from that time. 

In February [2014], I contacted the Winnetka police once again about Bill Bricker. This time I wanted any and all information they had on him. They told me about a file they had recently received, and said it would be provided to me, with names, ages, and addresses redacted, via FOIA. So I did the paperwork and turned it in. While I was at the police station, I asked whether the Winnetka cops had a record of the time I came in to make a report about Bricker back in the 1990's. Nope. When I told them I had been in there before to report Bricker, a detective said, "Well, that was then." I assume he meant before the current chief of police. But he didn't elaborate. 

After Bricker was arrested this September [2014] on the Wyoming warrant for two counts of inappropriate behavior with two different minors, one in 1962 and one in 1985, I realized that he could have been prosecuted for more crimes against minors in Illinois as well as Wyoming --  if only the cops had investigated my complaint twenty years ago. For two reasons: 1] it never occurred to the police that Bricker had been around long enough to affect more than one generation of scouts, students, and campers, which meant 2] while the statute of limitations in Illinois had passed [expired?] for complaints from the fifties and sixties, it wouldn't have passed for complaints from the seventies and eighties.

FYI: Bricker became a scout leader in 1938, the year he graduated from high school. Except for three years in WWII, he was in scouting until 1988. Thirty years passed before the first public accusation against him was made in 1968. Thirty years of silence. Most people coming forward now are in their sixties and seventies. Their claims are from even earlier, the fifties and sixties. They found this blog or the Glen Arbor Sun story about Bricker on the internet. Anyone older than that probably doesn't use a computer. Or surf the internet. Or Google Bill Bricker. So their voices may never be heard. 

Once again dealing with the police in Winnetka, I ran into a wall. This time with my 2014 FOIA request.

After reviewing my request, the Winnetka police sent me a three-page phone log that included one small paragraph about a phone call from the Boy Scouts that referenced alleged inappropriate contact of a minor by Bricker. But there was no comprehensive file included. I think they were hoping I wouldn't notice. 

Fed up with getting the runaround, I went higher up on the food chain. I wrote to the State's Attorney's office to appeal. An ASA sent the Winnetka Police a two-page letter [copying me] that basically said, put up or shut up. And I got the file. I also got lots of apologies from the Winnetka cops when I went to pick it up. Despite telling me there was a file when I made my FOIA request, they now claimed they didn't realize there was an actual file to give me, blah blah blah. 

Oh, the shucking and jiving or outright denial. From the police to Teton Valley Ranch Camp to the Boy Scouts to the Board of Education. So many different people, all of whom are mandated to protect children. All of whom continue to drop the ball.

NEXT INSTALLMENT -- Backstory III: The reporters who ignored the story, new stonewalling from the scouts, and the years that passed before I got an email from the Teton County [WY] Sheriff's office announcing their criminal investigation into Bricker. 

PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT -- Backstory I: HERE


Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Bill Bricker Backstory Part I

[A reminder: Bill Bricker has been arrested on two counts of inappropriate contact with a minor. These accusations and many others are alleged to be true by his accusers. I am inclined to believe them. However, he is innocent of any and all charges until proven guilty in a court of law.]

How did I get into this Bill Bricker firestorm? While my family has lived in Winnetka, IL. since 1954, Bill Bricker was never my gym teacher, because I never went to Hubbard Woods School. He was never my Boy Scout leader, because, like Little League, I was not eligible. And he was never my counselor at Camp Douglas Smith in Michigan or Teton Valley Ranch Camp in Wyoming.  

So, he never took me into his office and lifted up my shirt on my birthday; he never sat me on his lap with his hand under my dress or inside my panties at recess; he never grabbed or rubbed me between the legs at the Halloween Haunted House; and I never had to share his sleeping bag with his genitals rubbing against my back. These are behaviors alleged by just some of the people who have come forward with their claims of abuse. 

But I had relatives and friends who did attend Hubbard Woods School, several of whom said they avoided Bricker especially on their birthdays. I also had friends and relatives who were in Troop 18, one of whom was the first person who told me he had been molested. 

And I have this blog. Thanks to a single news article about Bricker from 2005, which I re-posted on my blog in 2007, along with the passage of time, the Teton County [WY] Sheriff's office, and the rising courage of some brave people who are finally able to come forward, the North Shore's most notorious teacher, scout leader, and camp counselor has been arrested. 

IN THE BEGINNING
Between fifteen and twenty years ago -- neither one of us can remember exactly -- a childhood friend reconnected with me. We had first met in the 1950's, when we were ten or eleven, riding the bus from summer swimming classes at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL. My first impression of him has stayed with me all these years -- Holy Cow!! He's probably the cutest boy I've ever seen. My second impression? His dark eyes were beyond intense and piercing. They smoldered with anger. In fact, I can still see him staring right through me after a mutual friend introduced us. 

Since we were the same age, I thought [I hoped] we would be in the same grade when school started, except he had been held back that year for some reason. We didn't meet again until high school. As luck would have it, one of my best friends became his high school girlfriend. So he and I became buddies. 

After college we all went our separate ways. My girlfriend married someone else. He did the Haight-Ashbury thing in the Sixties, becoming a roadie for some heavy duty bands, then spending two years traveling throughout India. I started my career in advertising, did improv with Second City's first Monday Night cast, and modeled on the side [I was Miss Goosepimple of 1967 for Zonolite insulation]. 

Thirty years later, when we were in our fifties, he sent me a letter. Still living in California, he was now a divorced father with custody of some or all of his kids. Since they were older, it had been their choice to stay with their dad. Obviously he connected in a good way with his children. He seemed to enjoy single parenthood and he was looking forward to becoming a granddad. 

Later that year, during a 'what's new with you?' phone call, he told me something that raised a red flag about his childhood. Owner of his own business, which had become a turnkey operation, he said he was donating his free time to a nonprofit that helped young, single mothers get back on their feet to find jobs. What did he do to help? He volunteered as a babysitter for their kids. On the face of it, that information seems fairly innocuous. But my sixth sense locked in. 

It is arguably rare for a middle-aged man to volunteer as a babysitter. But rather than just assume he was a pedophile, I wondered whether his obvious care and concern for children might have something to do with being molested himself as a boy? I recalled his angry eyes when we were eleven and how he had been kept back a year in school.  

With a Freudian psychoanalyst for a father, you learn to listen with a third ear. It's not just what people say; it's what you can hear between the words. Eventually this drill becomes automatic, almost second nature. The good news is you can become a more empathetic and understanding person. [I'm still working on that.] The bad news is that it tends to annoy the heck out of your family and friends. Since the unexamined life was never an option for me growing up, I am hardwired with endless curiosity to know what makes people tick. Over time my fallback analysis of people with significant psychological issues is that they have suffered the trauma of sexual abuse -- much to my children's annoyance. "Mom, not EVERYONE has been molested!"  Sometimes, however, I really and truly wonder.

My friends will be shocked to learn that I waited a whole year to find out whether or not my childhood friend had been molested. Listening patiently really isn't one of my greatest strengths. Telling you things is more my style. But I didn't have to ask; he told me. We were discussing something about Bill Bricker [I don't remember the context] and he said, "He molested me." I was stunned. My first thought was, "For once you were right!" Apparently the years of rumors about the charismatic scout leader's alleged behavior might be true after all. Certainly for one boy. But that was just the first step in a journey that has taken the better part of twenty years.

Later that year [still 15-20 years ago if you're keeping track], I talked to someone else who had also been in Bricker's Troop 18. I mentioned to him that someone we knew told me he had been molested by Bricker. Before I could express my own shock at first hearing this news, he suddenly blurted out, "He molested me, too." Without getting into too much detail, his behavior had become quite toxic in his early teens, something his parents chalked up to teenaged rebellion. But happy kids don't act out. Troubled ones do. As an adult he had become an alcoholic. He now thinks people are trying to kill him with microwaves. And yes, he wears an aluminum hat on occasion. He called me a couple of years ago about getting his affairs in order, since he claimed his death was imminent. I asked how soon he was going to die. He said he would be dead in thirty days. Wow. The thirty days have long passed. Now, when he has called, I say things like, "Hey, aren't you supposed to be dead?" A reality check tends to be my fallback when talking to delusional people. His messed up existence is just one example of the aftermath that can occur from sexual abuse. Full disclosure -- he called me later to retract what he had said about being molested. I told him his life said otherwise. 

Suddenly I was carrying an emotional weight that felt very heavy -- to this day. Within days or weeks of each other, two men I had known since childhood had told me that Bill Bricker molested them. 

Did I know anyone else? And I remembered a third possible victim. My girlfriend, whose boyfriend had been the first to tell me about his abuse, had a younger brother who had also been in Bricker's Troop 18. He started hearing voices in high school and committed suicide when he was in college in the Sixties. Like most of the victims coming forward now, he never told anyone he had been molested before his suicide, so we will never know for sure. But killing himself to escape his ferocious inner turmoil, likely caused by an adult he trusted, is another reminder of the damage left in the wake of sexual abuse. 

I remember calling his sister a few years ago to tell her I was fairly convinced that the pain and shame of molestation could explain why he took his life. She felt the same way I did. 

There have been other suicides. In fact, in the early eighties, Time Magazine ran an article on September 1, 1980, about the suicide epidemic on the North Shore, where Bill Bricker had been teaching gym and leading Boy Scouts for thirty years. And some of those kids may have also been his campers at Teton Valley Ranch Camp. They called the 20-mile stretch of wealthy suburbs along the lake "the Suicide Belt." In 17 months, 28 kids had taken their own lives. I have also seen some other estimates which put the number of suicides during that period in the high thirties. At one point this year, a friend and I started making a list of suicides of boys we knew who went to Hubbard Woods or belonged to Boy Scout Troop 18. We stopped at ten. We also started another list of kids we knew whose lives went off the rails. 

I have to stop this narrative for now, because writing this stuff makes me sad, depressed, and not a little angry.


NEXT: A Bill Bricker Backstory Part II: HERE -- Trying to get the story told and hitting a brick wall, again and again.