The mother of Weldon Marc Gilbert, the wealthy Lake Tapps man accused of sexually abusing and torturing more than 20 boys over the last...

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The mother of Weldon Marc Gilbert, the wealthy Lake Tapps man accused of sexually abusing and torturing more than 20 boys over the last six years, was concerned when her son let a 17-year-old boy live with him at his home but believed Gilbert was mentoring the young man.

Gilbert has been a successful pilot for more than 30 years and always wanted to support young men with similar goals, his mother said Sunday.

“He has always supported young men in their quest to develop direction in life; some of those people became pilots,” she said, asking that her name not be published, to protect her family from harassment.

“He was making a good income and he believed in sharing it,” she said. “I was so proud of him.”

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But Gilbert’s mother added, “I don’t know how things got awry.”

Gilbert, 47, was arrested at an Atlanta hotel Thursday on nine charges including child rape, molestation and sexual exploitation of a minor. The pilot had been out of town for work-related training with UPS.

Gilbert’s mother said her eldest son started opening his home to men in their 20s several years ago. But after a 17-year-old boy moved into his home earlier this year, his mother said she grew “uncomfortable,” calling the arrangement inappropriate.

Pierce County sheriff’s detectives began investigating Gilbert last week after two men reported that the pilot was molesting their two younger brothers, who are now 13 and 18, according to court charging papers.

Investigators searched Gilbert’s home on Wednesday and seized DVD and VHS videos, floppy discs, cameras, sex toys, paddles, blindfolds, ropes, “spanking devices,” bondage tools, computers and two handguns, according to charging documents.

Sheriff’s investigators have watched a portion of the videos and believe that about 20 boys and teens, ages 12 to 17, have been abused, said Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer. Detectives took a break Sunday but were to continue watching the videos today.

The 18-year-old, who had been living with Gilbert for the past several months, told investigators that he had been abused from March 2001 until Oct. 28, according to charging papers.

His older brothers “unknowingly” brought the 12-year-old boy to Gilbert’s house on Oct. 29, and the men contacted the sheriff’s office the following day, court papers said.

The 18-year-old told investigators he met Gilbert when he was 12, shortly after his father died. The man said he often went to Gilbert’s home and accompanied him on trips to Hong Kong, Thailand and Europe, according to charging papers. He said Gilbert “regularly and frequently” spanked him, leaving welts, cuts and bruises on his body.

Gilbert videotaped the spankings as well as the two engaging in sex acts, according to court documents.

Gilbert also recorded himself spanking the 12-year-old boy, who has since turned 13. There are also videos of Gilbert fondling the youth, according to the charging papers.

The Lake Tapps man allegedly paid many of the youths he abused, including the 18-year-old who reported him, Troyer said.

“The guy had various tools to manipulate them,” Troyer said.

While most assaults were filmed in Gilbert’s house, some appear to have been shot in a studio, Troyer said. Investigators believe Gilbert set up the video camera himself and that nobody else participated in making the videos.

It is unclear whether Gilbert sold or shared the pornographic images, Troyer added.

Gilbert’s mother said her son has always been “a source of pride for the family.”

At the age of 12 he told his parents that he knew what his future career would be, and at 17 Gilbert became a licensed pilot. He spent his high-school years focusing on his honors classes and paying attention to his flight instructors.

“He had an uncle who was in the military. He just looked up to him so much,” his mother said.

When Gilbert was 19 he flew his family to California in his Beechcraft Bonanza for a vacation; at the age of 27 he became a 747 pilot, his mother said. He regularly flew a Learjet before being hired by UPS nearly 20 years ago.

According to state records, Gilbert is the owner of a Puyallup aircraft company.

Gilbert was never interested in getting married, said his mother, adding that her son is a skier and boater.

“He has always had an amiable, relaxed lifestyle for people to come over [to his house],” she said.

Gilbert’s mother said she hasn’t talked to her son since his arrest but plans to support him.

“I just pray a lot,” said his mother, who is Catholic. “If I didn’t have God, I would cry in a little corner.”

Information previously reported in The Seattle Times is contained in this report.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or

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