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the 'perversion files'

Men tell of sexual abuse by scoutmaster decades ago

Memories of spending the night at Rodger L. Beatty's home in Pennsylvania are still fresh. Five boys reported their leader's actions to Scout officials and he was expelled, but the police weren't called.

October 20, 2012|By Kim Christensen, Los Angeles Times
  • Carl Maxwell Jr., reviews the Boy Scouts of America's confidential file detailing the alleged abuse he and four other members of Troop 222 were subjected to by Scoutmaster Rodger L. Beatty
Carl Maxwell Jr., reviews the Boy Scouts of America's confidential… (Kim Christensen, Los Angeles…)

NEWPORT, Pa. — Even after 36 years, Carl Maxwell Jr.'s thoughts leap to the rustic house at the edge of the golf course, and what happened there.

"It is so old, but it is so fresh," Maxwell said, recalling the many nights that members of Troop 222 spent at the home of their scoutmaster, Rodger L. Beatty.

He remembers the mattresses that covered the floor in the front room, the queasy anticipation that would set in among the five boys after Beatty said good night and went to his room.

DATABASE: Search for names, locations

"I remember the first time for me," he said. "The lights were turned off and the moon was out, and I could see it shining through a crack in the blinds. Then all of a sudden it got dark and then it got light again, and you could tell someone passed through the light."

It was Beatty, he said.

"He started at one end of the room and worked his way right down," Maxwell said.

Mike Kunkel also remembers being sexually abused at Beatty's place, and had long kept it to himself.

"I have been married for 20-something years and never said a word about this to my wife until tonight," he said, an hour after a reporter called and asked to stop by to talk about Beatty. "It was a big bomb to drop on her."

All five boys, ages 13 and 14, came forward in July 1976 to accuse Beatty in detailed written statements to local Scout officials. He was expelled from Scouting, but no one called the police. Beatty abruptly left town.

"It's like he ceased to exist after that day," Kunkel said. "Now I'm wondering: Where the hell is he? Is he in jail? Is he dead?"

Beatty, 66, is neither dead nor in jail.

The longtime University of Pittsburgh social worker, educator and AIDS researcher has been in a hospital intensive care unit since Sept. 28, when he suffered a massive stroke. His family asked David Korman, a Pitt colleague and friend of 20 years, to answer questions on his behalf.

"I'm just shocked by this," Korman said. "His reputation on the campus is truly outstanding.... I think everyone here will be stunned."

Korman said Beatty is unable to communicate.

"The only person able to answer the allegations is unable to answer," he said.

Boy Scout files

The accusations that bind the Pennsylvania men's lives are detailed in the Boy Scouts of America's confidential files, a blacklist the organization has used for nearly a century to keep suspected molesters out of its ranks.

Beatty's is among nearly 1,900 such files the Los Angeles Times has reviewed in recent months. Hundred of suspected molesters, many of them respected members of their communities, were never reported to authorities, the records show.

Much of their long-buried history was cast into public view Thursday, when 1,247 of the files, including Beatty's, were unsealed by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, two years after a jury considered them as evidence in a landmark sex-abuse lawsuit against the Scouts.

The Times first attempted to contact Beatty in early September, more than two weeks before he fell ill. He did not respond to repeated email and phone messages.

The newspaper also sought out the former Scouts he was alleged to have abused. Of the five, two have since died and one could not be reached.

Like many other incidents of alleged abuse described in the files, those involving Beatty played out in a small town, where Scouting was a big part of boys' lives.

Maxwell, now 50, said Newport was a great place to "swim in the cricks" and fish in the Juniata River, a few blocks down the hill from the small duplex where he and his sister grew up and where he still lives much of the year. It is about 25 miles from the capital, Harrisburg, and many of its 1,500 residents are state employees. His late father, Carl Sr., worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

"I wouldn't have wanted to grow up any other place," Maxwell said, sitting at the kitchen table. "You know how you hear people say you can leave the doors unlocked? Well, this was that kind of neighborhood."

Sponsored by a local church, Troop 222 was led for three years in the mid-1970s by Beatty, then a county drug-and-alcohol counselor in his late 20s. He met some of the boys, including Mike Kunkel and his stepbrother, J.P. Culhane, while helping their parents with alcohol abuse or other problems.

"My mom and dad were having problems, and they started seeking therapy through the county," Kunkel said.

Kunkel said he and Culhane were "loose cannons" at that age and Beatty suggested that they'd benefit from Scouting's structured environment. So they joined his troop.

Beatty took a special interest in some of the boys, Kunkel said. He'd take them on camping trips and to events such as the Klondike Derby, where Scouts test their skills. They always had plenty to eat and lots of fun.

"He taught us how to drive a car," Kunkel said. "He drove a stick ... so we drove a stick."

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