HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. — A textile heir testified today that he often took youngsters from a summer camp he ran for rich kids skinny-dipping but never molested them, contrary to the claims of four children.
Jones Yorke Pharr III, 41, grandson of the founder of Pharr-Stowe textile mills, is on trial in Henderson County Superior Court on two counts of taking indecent liberties with minors attending Falling Creek Camp in Tuxedo.
Four boys testified against him earlier this week before the defense began presenting its witnesses, including Pharr's wife, Barbara, 40, who in response to a prosecutor's question said the couple enjoys a "very normal" sex life.
"There were no whips and chains or anything, if that's what you mean," she said.
Barbara Pharr said her husband is an "extremely affectionate" man, and considered himself a "surrogate father" to the campers. The couple have three children of their own.
Pharr testified that he took youngsters on overnight outings during which they stripped off all their clothes and went for moonlight swims. But he denied fondling or molesting any of them.
He said he, too, skinny-dipped as a youngster attending one of the many camps that ring Hendersonville, a picturesque resort community nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
"I absolutely do not think it (skinny-dipping) is wrong," he said.
Pharr said he has taken campers on about 600 overnight trips since he bought the camp in 1971 and that one of the camp's selling points was his individual attention to the campers, most about 10 years old.
"Business was strong because I knew the children and they felt close to me," he said. "I gave them that special opportunity to get to know me."
The youngsters who testified against Pharr--a 10-year-old and an 11-year-old from West Palm Beach, Fla., and two 10-year-olds from Baltimore and Phoenix--gave nearly identical accounts alleging Pharr took them skinny-dipping, groped them and then invited them to share his sleeping bag, during which the alleged molestations took place.