A Timeline Of The Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal

Nov 11, 2011
Originally published on November 11, 2011 5:25 pm
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The grand jury presentment in the Jerry Sandusky case is painful reading. In 1998, a mother complained that her 11-year-old son was bear hugged by Sandusky when both were naked in the shower at Penn State. The police secretly recorded her confronting Sandusky twice. That case was closed without charges being brought. But a university police detective who knew about it did tell Sandusky to stop showering with children.

Four years later, a graduate coaching assistant said he witnessed another 11-year-old boy being raped in the shower by Sandusky, but neither he nor his supervisors went to the police. Reporter Sara Ganim of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, sums up all the evidence in this case in a special report today. And she joins us from State College, Pennsylvania. Welcome to the program.

SARA GANIM: Thank you.

SIEGEL: And let's start with that 1998 incident. It's not the first chronologically, but the mother complained, the police investigated. What happened?

GANIM: Basically, the child came home from a tour of the Penn State football building with Jerry Sandusky. He came home and he told his mom, if you're wondering why my hair is wet, it's because we took a shower together. And then he ran into his bedroom and slammed the door, and she said she immediately called police.

He was interviewed, along with another boy around the same age who was also in the shower at the time. And the boys told police that Sandusky bear-hugged them while they took naked showers together. There was like, there was a six-week investigation by the police, by the district attorney's office. And part of that included this setup in the mother's house. Jerry Sandusky had asked that he come over and explain to her what happened in his words. So the police decided to hide in another room and listen. And he told the mother that he did take a shower with her son. He told her he wished he had her forgiveness, but he knew he wasn't going to get it. And then he said, I wish I were dead.

SIEGEL: Well, a university police detective knew this, according to the grand jury. Do we know who up and down the Penn State administrative ladder knew about that case, which, again, resulted in no criminal charge?

GANIM: All we really know about who knew - and this is just from the grand jury presentment - is that vice president for finance and business, who has now resigned, Gary Schultz, said that when another incident was reported four years later, he acknowledged that there was similarities to the one in 1998, so he know that he had to have read it at some point. But the person who made the decision not to prosecute the case was Ray Gricar, and he's a prosecutor who has been missing for seven years and was declared legally dead over the summer because they have no leads in his case. So we can't exactly go ask him why he decided no to pursue this.

SIEGEL: You don't know why he decided not to prosecute. But when you say similarities, it's an understatement. We're talking about 11-year-old boys in the shower. Alarm bells would've gone off in 2002 if anyone knew anything about the 1998 investigation..

GANIM: Well, that's something that you could assume. If you look at the grand jury presentment, it's really split into two categories. And one category is two victims who say that they endured prolonged abuse, like almost like a relationship type of status with Jerry Sandusky. And then the other ones are single incidents of contact in a shower. So you would think, in any of those circumstances that alarm bells would go off. And, you know, at the press conference to announce the charges on Monday, the state police commissioner said he has never seen anything like it in his career, where someone witnesses a sex act against a child and it didn't lead to charges.

SIEGEL: You list in your special report today the different years when people might have acted and didn't act, and it was really quite often that this could've been stopped.

GANIM: I do think that that's true. I think there were a lot of missed opportunities throughout at least a 15-year period. Now, I also think we need to keep in mind that police are getting tips. I mean, this has become a huge story, and there is a lot of national media in State College right now, and they're all doing stories all day long, and it's gotten a lot of attention. And the state police have said that they have gotten at least two calls. You know, I think there is a potential for us to find that there were missed opportunities even beyond that 15 years.

SIEGEL: Well, Sara Ganim of the Patriot News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, thanks for talking with us.

GANIM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.