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A chance encounter revived memories of molestation decades ago

Officials charged Claude Edward Foulk after alleged victim saw him at Napa State Hospital and contacted police.

February 27, 2010|By Richard Winton

The child molestation case against the fired head of Napa State Hospital began with a chance meeting last September.

A man, who as a boy in the early 1970s lived a few doors from Claude Edward Foulk in Long Beach, was visiting the hospital as part of his job as a vendor. He turned the corner of a hallway and made eye contact with Foulk, who ran the 1,200-patient facility that houses mentally ill criminals.

The encounter triggered memories of alleged abuse by Foulk nearly four decades ago, his attorney told The Times. The man told his wife and went to Long Beach police, who began investigating.

On Friday, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office filed court documents providing details about Foulk's alleged history of molestation. Authorities alleged that Foulk molested at least five victims but are now looking at eight additional allegations that date to 1965.

Foulk pleaded not guilty Friday to 35 felony counts involving his adopted son. A judge rejected a defense attorney's request to reduce Foulk's bail from $3.5 million to $500,000 after a prosecutor revealed the growing number of allegations.

His attorney, Jon Artz, declined to discuss the charges specifically but warned against a rush to judgment until all the facts are in.

According to court records, Foulk allegedly molested a foster child in his care from 1973 to 1985. In 1974, prosecutors allege, Foulk molested a friend of the foster child, who as an adult went to police last September after the encounter in the Napa hospital.

In 1977, Foulk allegedly molested a friend of a second foster child living at his home in Long Beach. Prosecutors allege that he masturbated in front of two children in the early 1990s, asking the minors to participate.

All these cases fell before the statute of limitations, so prosecutors said they could not file charges.

Foulk is being prosecuted for alleged molestations of his son, which began in 1992 and continued through 2003, according to charges.

During these years, Foulk worked as a mental health professional at several facilities in Southern California, eventually landing the top job at Napa State Hospital.

The attorney for the man who first alerted police praised Long Beach detectives for taking the accusations seriously and conducting an exhaustive investigation.

"I give the Long Beach police a huge amount of the credit," attorney John C. Manly said. "They went after this case even though it was decades ago."

Manly said that his client, now 45, had repressed memories of the alleged molestation and that seeing Foulk brought the memories back. "It all came back to him," he said. "It was an emotional gunshot."

The man decided to call police, meeting with detectives several times and giving them names of potential victims. "He's really proud," Manly said.

Prosecutors said in court that Foulk may have molested 13 people. But they provided few details about eight of the cases, saying they were still under investigation.

It's unclear whether any of those cases would be covered by the statute of limitations. Deputy Dist. Atty. Lesley Klein said some of those allegations may involve incidents outside Los Angeles County.

Artz, who served as Foulk's attorney at Friday's hearing, said his client should be given time to provide his side of the story.

"Everyone remembers the Duke lacrosse players were accused of rape and later exonerated," he said. "People need to keep an open mind."

richard.winton@latimes.com

Times staff writer Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.

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