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Napa State Hospital chief is accused of molesting son

Claude E. Foulk, 62, is charged with 35 felony counts. Authorities say they have evidence he abused at least five children, but the statute of limitations in the other cases has expired.

February 25, 2010|By Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton and Lee Romney
  • Hours after his arrest, California officials announced that they had terminated Claude Foulk's employment as executive director of Napa State Hospital, a Northern California mental institution that houses mentally ill criminals.
Hours after his arrest, California officials announced that they had terminated… (Eric Risberg / Associated…)

Reporting from San Francisco and Los Angeles — The executive director of Napa State Hospital, a Northern California mental institution that houses mentally ill criminals, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of molesting his adopted son for more than a decade, authorities said.

Long Beach Police Department detectives took Claude Edward Foulk, 62, into custody Wednesday morning at the hospital after a lengthy investigation into alleged molestations both in Southern California and Northern California.

Los Angeles County prosecutors have charged Foulk with 35 felony counts, including 22 counts of forcible oral copulation and 11 counts of sodomy by use of force.

Authorities said they have evidence that Foulk molested at least five children -- including some foster children in his care. But they said the statute of limitations in the other cases already has expired, so no charges could be brought.

The arrest shocked some officials at Napa State Hospital, where Foulk has been director since 2007.

Hours after his arrest, state officials announced that they had terminated Foulk's employment. State officials declined further comment. Neither Foulk nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

Long Beach Police Cmdr. Jeff Johnson said officials began building their case in September, when one of Foulk's former foster children contacted them with details about abuse he allegedly had suffered decades earlier. The man, who is now in his 40s and lived in Long Beach at the time of the alleged abuse, came forward after learning that Foulk was now heading the hospital, authorities said.

Detectives believe that Foulk used his position working at mental facilities in Southern California to make connections with children. Johnson said Foulk also came into contact with alleged victims who lived in his neighborhood.

"He used his position of trust not only as a parental figure but as a healthcare professional to obtain his victims," Johnson said. "He was able to not only use strategic threats of force or intimidation, but use monetary as well as other rewards to his victims and their caretakers to prevent discovery of his crimes."

Detectives said the alleged victims came in contact with Foulk as far back as 1975, when he lived in Long Beach and other locations around the region. Johnson said most of the alleged incidents occurred before 1988, which is the cutoff under the statute of limitations.

The charges filed this week involve his adopted son, now in his mid-20s, who alleges that Foulk molested him from 1992 to 2006.

Some employees at Napa State Hospital said they were concerned because Foulk lived in a house on the grounds next to a day-care center. The charges don't include any allegations of molestation at the Napa facility, but Long Beach police said they believe there may be more victims in L.A. County and Northern California.

Foulk, a registered nurse, previously worked as a manager at the California Department of Mental Health. Before that, he served as chief executive at community acute psychiatric hospitals, including CPC Horizon Hospital and Clinic in Pomona and CPC Alhambra Psychiatric Hospital in Rosemead, according to state documents.

At the Napa facility, Foulk oversaw more than 2,300 employees treating nearly 1,200 patients. The hospital serves a broad array of patients, including many sent there by criminal courts. Most of the patients are sent to Napa after being found not guilty by reason of insanity or found to be incompetent to stand trial.

Some patients at the facility have committed sex offenses. But the state's most dangerous offenders -- including murderers and high-risk sex predators -- are sent to other state facilities, including Atascadero and Coalinga.

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

lee.romney@latimes.com

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