Two stories have been published today that shed a harrowing light on the awful circumstances faced by the boy identified by the Penn State grand jury summary as Victim 1:
1. The Huffington Post's Ryan D. Buell interviewed the boy's mother several times, and his story summarizing what she had to say includes plenty of details about how badly her son was mistreated at Central Mountain High School—by skeptical administrators as well as cruel fellow students and others in the community. The boy withdrew from attending Central Mountain last week.
2. Nate Schweber and Jo Becker of the New York Times do their best to profile Victim 1 by talking to some of those who know him. Two themes are covered: The account of a friend of the boy who went along for an outing that included Sandusky and Victim 1; and the story of a track coach who had carved out a role as the boy's mentor, only to get fired once the boy began tuning him out and the school got wind of the coach's efforts to try to get through to him.
According to the Huffington Post, Victim 1's mother says administrators at Central Mountain were "not helpful." She was incensed to learn Sandusky was frequently able to take her son out of class, and that even after she complained, she was greeted with resistance:
"The principal just waved it off, saying, 'You know, it's Jerry. He's around the school a lot and talks a lot with Second Mile kids. He has a heart of gold.' I was furious. They were defending this guy."
That initial skepticism was perhaps understandable, given what was known about Sandusky to the outside world at the time. But even after the school allowed the boy to speak with a counselor, after which the mother was told to come to the school immediately, that skepticism lingered.
After her son made the allegation—but before it was known publicly—the mother says she was confronted by the grandmother of a football player at the school, who began berating her. When the mother asked how the woman knew about her son's allegations against Sandusky, the woman said Steven Turchetta, the Central Mountain football coach, had brought it up at a recent parents' meeting. Turchetta's name is in the grand jury report, which says his testimony corraborated portions of Victim 1's story. Sports Illustrated also spoke with Turchetta for its lengthy cover story about the Penn State scandal and even referred to him as "one of the few good guys in a sordid story." But Victim 1's mother clearly sees him differently:
According to Mother One, the woman added, "Coach Turchetta said these charges are never going to stick and he'll walk away."
"She never asked me if the charges were true. She just finished up with, 'Thanks a lot. Now our football team is going to lose and it's all because of your son.'"
Mother One said that Turchetta found ways to target her son as punishment for getting Sandusky removed from school grounds.
Although Turchetta didn't coach her son directly, his role as assistant principal and his involvement in the sports department gave him influence over other sports programs within the school. Mother One claims her son developed a close bond with a 28-year-old volunteer coach, which Turchetta abruptly ended.
One day, she recalled, her son told her that Turchetta was in his face, yelling at him: "With what you've done already, no 28-year-old man needs to be around you."
"I think he was accusing my son of having some kind of relationship with him," she said. "That's how my son took it, too."
Mother One said it was Turchetta's hostility, coupled with fears for her son's safety, that led her to remove her son from the school last week.
Mother One said she is also troubled by what she believes are inconsistencies with the school officials' testimonies in the grand jury report. She points out that Turchetta claims he became suspicious of Sandusky's behavior and actions around certain students.
"If he suspected something was going on then why didn't he report it?" she asked.
Victim 1's mother says the school continued to show indifference to her fears for her son's safety, that he has nightmares "every night," and that he lives in constant fear of being abused again. Humor, in the form of watching Adam Sandler movies, has helped, as has the knowledge that his coming forward might work to prevent additional victims from being abused.
In the Times's story, Sandusky's lawyer, Joe Amendola, is quoted as saying Sandusky "was always a very physical kind of teddy bear, like an overgrown kid" who "would hug kids, he kissed kids, but it wasn't sexual." In the summer of 2008, a friend of Victim 1 talks about going to dinner with Sandusky and his wife, Dottie. At which point, the Times adds:
Then Sandusky drove everyone home. First, he dropped off his wife and her friend, the friend said. Then the third boy. At the boy's house, the friend was asked to exit the car first. The friend left the vehicle, but glanced back inside and saw Sandusky holding the boy's hand.
The next day, the friend's mother was in tears. She had received a call from the boy's mother, and now she had an urgent question for her own son: "Had Sandusky touched him the day before?"
The friend's mother told her son "stuff was going on that was inappropriate" between the boy and Sandusky. The boy's mother had said she was in the process of reporting it to the authorities.
The friend quickly called the boy. They met and talked, but little explicit was said.
"He had this look on his face like something happened," the friend said. "I thought, ‘I'm not going to ask, I'm just going to let it go.' " He added, "There are just some things you don't want to know."
But it was Thom Hunter, a track coach, who developed into "an adult male who would neither abandon nor harm [Victim 1]" by way of his encouragement of the boy's running ability and his unwavering support after the boy was involved in a terrible car accident in October of last year. Hunter appears to be the 28-year-old coach from the HuffPo story who was dissuaded by Turchetta, the Central Mountain football coach, from getting too close to Victim 1.
Hunter says he was not aware until this summer that the by might have been one of Sandusky's alleged victims, though he did recall being told in the spring of 2009 that no adults were permitted to be alone with the boy. The two were close enough that, when the boy began to abandon his track regimen this summer, Hunter sent him an email pleading with the boy not to throw away his ability. And then, the Times says:
The boy was taken aback by the challenging e-mails sent to him by his mentor, Hunter. He didn't want to hear that his coach thought he needed more discipline. Hunter guessed that another coach at the school must have overheard the boy talking about Hunter's guidance and asked to see the e-mail. But Hunter said all he knew for sure was that the boy had turned over the correspondence to a school official.
Hunter had been arrested for public intoxication two years ago, but he says the school never mentioned that when it fired him as a coach in September of this year. The track team rallied in Hunter's defense and even made a trip to Hunter's house, where many of them wept. None more so than Victim 1. From the Times:
"I can't talk about it now, but you'll all find out eventually," the boy said that day, according to two people present.
Indeed, Hunter said that when the boy first walked into his coach's home, he had said, "You're going to hit me, you're going to hate me, this is all my fault."
Hunter said he reassured the boy that would not happen. "You can't build a relationship over three years and have it end like that," he said he told the boy. "You didn't do anything wrong."
Penn State Scandal: Mother Of Alleged Jerry Sandusky Victim Claims Mistreatment By Son's School [Huffington Post]
For a Reported Penn State Victim, a Search for Trust [New York Times]