By Luis Martinez, ABC News
By Luis Martinez and Jack Date
The Army says the FBI is investigating allegations of child sexual abuse at Fort Meade, Md., involving a civilian employee who used to work at the base’s youth center.
“Fort Meade officials became aware of an alleged incident of child sexual abuse involving a civilian employee who previously worked at the Fort Meade Youth Center,” Army spokesman George Wright said in a statement. “The allegations were reported through appropriate channels and the FBI has since opened an investigation.”
The FBI is the lead investigation agency because Fort Meade is a federal facility. The sprawling Army post located between Washington and Baltimore is also home to the National Security Agency.
Wright said Fort Meade “is fully cooperating with the FBI’s investigation and is providing support to families as necessary. This investigation is ongoing and requests for additional information should be addressed to the FBI’s Baltimore office.”
The FBI is not commenting on the allegations.
A Defense official said that the alleged perpetrator had worked for the Army for five to seven years and previously held positions at the child development center (CDC) and youth center at Fort Meade.
Child development centers provide child care for children ranging in age from infancy to 6 years of age. Youth centers are for children aged 6 to 18.
The Army announced it is closing and demolishing a child-care center at its base at the Presidio after allegations that as many as 60 youngsters were sexually abused there.
Maj. Greg Rixon, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said the Presidio Child Development Center would be closed Friday and a new center would be opened by April.
A Presidio spokesman, Bob Mahoney, said the closing, which was disclosed Saturday, was for ”health, safety and sanitation reasons, and not as a result of allegations of child abuse.”
But Representative Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, said Army officials had told her earlier that some children were afraid to return to the center. Dwindling Attendance
Attendance at the center reportedly has declined recently from a maximum of about 250 children to 180.
Gary Willard Hambright, 34 years old, a former worker at the center and a former Southern Baptist minister, has been charged with abusing 10 boys and girls there. He worked at the center as a civilian employee for 18 months.
He was indicted Sept. 30 on 10 counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with children and two counts involving sexual acts with children. His trial has been set for April 4.
A Federal grand jury in San Francisco spent 10 months investigating abuse allegations surrounding the Presidio center, and almost 100 children were examined for physical or psychological signs of sexual abuse. At least four children were discovered to have chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease.
An assistant United States attorney, Peter Robinson, said Mr. Hambright was charged with molesting only 10 children because other victims were so young they would not be allowed to testify in court.
Army Panel Investigated
Mr. Mahoney said earlier this year that more than 70 children had been interviewed by Army therapists as potential abuse victims. Parents have said as many as 60 children were molested at the center.
A 16-member Army review team recently inspected the Presidio center as part of an investigation of the almost 300 child-care centers run by the Army, which care for an estimated 94,000 youngsters daily.
Allegations of sexual abuse have surfaced at more than 10 percent of those centers since 1984. Among them are the centers at Fort Dix in New Jersey and the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Major Rixon, the Army spokesman, said the inspection team looked at several aspects of the Presidio center, including hiring practices.
The decision to close the center was made by Army Secretary John O. March, the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Carl Vouon,o and Gen. Allen K. Ono, the deputy chief of staff for Army personnel, Major Rixon said.
Several parents of were pleased with news of the closing.
”This is a statement that the Army is going to roll up its sleeves and sort through this,” said Capt. Mike Tobin.
”I hope the Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard pay attention too,” he said at a Saturday news conference with other parents.
DAN MORAIN, LA Times
SAN FRANCISCO — The FBI is investigating allegations that 37 or more children were molested at a child-care center at the Presidio Army base here since mid-1985, authorities said Monday.
At least four children contracted chlamydia, a common, treatable venereal disease, Presidio spokesman Bob Mahoney said. Another child initially tested positive for exposure to the acquired immune deficiency syndrome virus, but a more reliable test showed no infection.
“It is an extensive investigation regarding child molestation at the Presidio,” FBI spokesman John Holford said. “The agents are still conducting interviews and collecting evidence.”
“Because of the long period of time in which this case concerns itself, we simply don’t know how many children are involved,” said Col. Joseph V. Rafferty, commander of the base, which overlooks the Golden Gate.
Mahoney said the FBI has questioned more than 60 children who attended the day-care center between June, 1985, and November, 1986. Parents say they have been told by base authorities that at least 37 suspected victims have been identified.
Mahoney maintained that today, the child-care center, a pleasant wooden structure with a capacity of 300 children, “is a safe place to be.”
Word of the continuing investigation was disturbing news at the campus-like fort, where there has never been a shot fired in hostility and which is a center for such pursuits as medical research and language studies. About 6,000 military personnel and civilians work at the base.
‘The Rumors Escalate’
Attendance at the center has dropped to about 150. Although a summer attendance decline is common, some of this year’s has been attributed to fearful parents pulling their children out. Some parents are holding weekly support-group meetings, and some circulated petitions last week calling for a town hall meeting to air the issue.
“It’s got a lot of people asking a lot of questions. Out of questions come rumors, and the rumors escalate,” said Maj. Dennis Runyon, a base dentist who believes that his two daughters were molested when they were in the center for six weeks last summer.
The allegations began last November, when Capt. Michael and Joyce Tobin’s 3-year-old son complained about being molested by “Mr. Gary.”
In an interview Monday, Joyce Tobin, a nurse, said she examined her son but could not find evidence of such an attack. After he complained a second time, she found marks and reported it to authorities.
Gary W. Hambright, 33, who worked as one of 40 adults at the day-care center from June, 1985, until November, 1986, was put under investigation. Hambright, described by his attorney as an ordained Baptist minister who now works as a handyman at a church here, was indicted in December.
U.S. District Judge William Schwarzer ruled that statements by Joyce Tobin, the boy’s doctor and a nurse regarding the alleged molestation constituted hearsay evidence and could not be used in court. He also decided that the boy was not competent to testify, so prosecutors were forced to drop charges against Hambright.
The investigation into Hambright continues, however. The FBI obtained a search warrant to test the former teacher for chlamydia last month. The test showed that he was not carrying the disease, Hambright’s attorney, Rommel Bondoc, said.
The condition is curable with antibiotics and leaves no trace.
“There are all of these rumors and accusations that seem to spread like a venereal disease,” Bondoc said. “But it turns out they are all negative. He didn’t do it.”
Bondoc said Hambright has no criminal record.
At the Runyon’s home on Monday, as children ran in and out or rode bikes outside, a group of parents discussed the emotional effects on their children, the difficulty in bringing the molester or molesters to justice and the need for parents who fear that their children were molested to speak up. Joyce Tobin said she believes that the wives of some enlisted men fear that their speaking up may damage their husbands’ careers.
“We want the children who were molested taken care of, and you can’t take care of them if you don’t know who they are,” Tobin said.
The Tobins, Runyons and three other other couples sent letters in April to other parents who had children in the center, saying that 37 youngsters have been “identified by authorities as suspected victims.”
“It’s the perfect crime,” Runyon said. “You’re dealing with young kids who do not make competent witnesses to testify. What they say to their parents can’t be used in court. You don’t want to taint these kids’ testimony by discussing it, so it’s difficult to spread the word.”
For the military and civilian employees on the eucalyptus-forested base, word of the molestation has been a shock. Capt. Larry Adams-Thompson, a chaplain, said he put in for a transfer and will move to Hawaii because of the suspected molestation of his daughter.
“You get to the point where you just don’t trust anyone to take care of your kid,” the chaplain said.
Diane Ehrensaft Ph.D.*
Volume 62, Issue 2, pages 234–244, April 1992
A case study is presented of girls who were among the preschool victims of sexual abuse linked to occult rituals that occurred at the Presidio Army Base Child Development Center. Components of the trauma, together with its effects on the victims and their families, are investigated, and implications for the mental health profession are discussed.
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