He kept his secret for 35 years, and he’d probably still be keeping it had his mother not asked a question in passing last year.
“I wonder whatever happened to that nice man who gave you a ride to Scout camp,” he remembers her saying.
The question set the then-49-year-old former cop on a quest: What did happen to the man, a Snohomish County Boy Scouts volunteer, who, he says, molested him when he was 14?
It didn’t take long to find out: Charles Grewe was convicted of child rape while working as a school-bus driver six years later. He’s now a registered sex offender living in Lake Stevens.
But B.B., who asked to be identified only by his initials, wasn’t done searching. He wanted to know about another Boy Scout official he says molested him the same summer at the Fire Mountain Boy Scouts Camp in Mount Vernon.
What he learned enraged him: The volunteer leader, Allen Ewalt, died years earlier. But Ewalt’s name was contained in the Boy Scouts Of America’s so-called “perversion files,” internal records tracking suspected pedophiles within Scouting ranks, dating to 1915. The files, many of which were disclosed in 2010 as a part of an unrelated lawsuit in Oregon, showed Scouting executives knew Ewalt had been accused of abusing other boys years before B.B. says he was molested.
“I wasn’t mad so much at these guys who molested me; they’re sick predators,” said B.B., during an interview Friday. “What I was angry about, and still am, is that the supposedly moral and upstanding men and women who run Scouting have known about these predators going back 100 years. But they’ve concealed all of this, allowing these guys to do this again and again. It disgusts me.”
So disgusted, in fact, that B.B. filed a 28-page lawsuit last year against the local Evergreen Area Council BSA, and the Boy Scouts of America’s national council. This week, both groups agreed to pay B.B. an undisclosed sum. The parties struck the confidential deal before a judge had ruled on a motion filed by B.B.’s lawyers that asked the court to order the BSA to disclose additional files on accused volunteers that remain secret.
B.B.’s case “lays bare the culture of secrecy within the Boy Scouts at both the local and national levels,” said attorney Michael Pfau, whose Seattle firm has handled dozens of similar cases. “The BSA had known for years that both of these men were pedophiles, but allowed them to keep volunteering. It’s a tragic example of the failure to protect kids.”
Grewe, 61, did not return phone messages left for him Monday.
Reached on his cell phone Monday, Kevin Nichols, executive of the Everett-based council now known as the Mount Baker Council BSA, said he was boarding a plane and unable to comment.
The national council, which did not respond to requests for comment Monday, emailed a statement after this story had published.
“We are outraged there have been times when Scouts were abused and we sincerely apologize to victims and their families,” said the statement, which is attributed to Nichols. “Nothing is more important than the safety and protection of children in our Scouting programs – it is our top priority.”
The statement added the organization has “strengthened our efforts to protect youth” in recent years, and now “offers unlimited counseling” for any current or former youth members and their families.
“Afraid to death”
In 1983, B.B. was a member of Troop 8 in Everett who had earned the chance to work as a counselor-in-training at Fire Mountain. His mom made arrangements for Grewe, the camp’s aquatics director, to give her son a ride to and from the camp, B.B. recalled.
One day at camp, B.B. had a stomach ache and headed to the infirmary where he says Ewalt directed him to strip. Known as “Doc Al,” Ewalt wasn’t a doctor, but nonetheless was named the camp’s health officer. Before Ewalt fondled him, B.B. recalls, “Doc Al” called Grewe in to watch, then made sexual remarks to both him and Grewe throughout the exam.
“It was absolutely creepy,” B.B. recalled.
By then, Ewalt already had been barred from scouting in Iowa amid allegations made in the 1960s, according to records in his “ineligible volunteer” file. But Ewalt reemerged in the 1970s as a volunteer in Washington, where he molested multiple boys, according to B.B.’s suit. In 1980, after the national council told the local council to deny Ewalt’s volunteer application, local officials negotiated for Ewalt to continue volunteering “on probation,” the records show.
“Not only should he never have been let back in to scouting, but then they put him in position as the camp health officer where he had access to the most vulnerable boys,” said Vincent Nappo, one of B.B.’s lawyers.
After summer camp ended, Grewe gave B.B. a ride back to Snohomish County, discussing sex with the boy throughout the drive, B.B said. Grewe then took the boy to Grewe’s Lake Stevens home, where B.B. alleges Grewe molested him.
“I yelled, ‘If you ever touch me again, I’ll put an ax through your forehead,’ ” B.B. recalled.
He then ran from Grewe’s house and kept what happened secret.
“In my 14-year-old little mind, I knew that if I told, my father … would go out and kill both of these guys,” B.B. said. “I was afraid to death to tell anybody, and I certainly didn’t want anyone to know this happened to me.”
As with Ewalt, local BSA leaders knew about other accusations against Grewe before B.B. was abused, the lawsuit says. Because of local officials’ inaction, “Grewe abused numerous boys in scouting,” the suit contends.
Grewe was finally expelled from scouting after prosecutors charged him with three counts of sex abuse in 1988.
“I know it’s catharatic”
B.B. says the abuse eventually spurred him to become a police officer, partly “to protect that 14-year-old boy I once was.”
Now undergoing counseling, he says the abuse caused him troubles with his career, his personal relationships and coming to terms with his sexuality.
“I’m still not comfortable telling my story,” B.B. said, “but I know it’s cathartic.”
B.B. still loves scouting as a program for kids. He has served as an adult scouting volunteer, even returning to Fire Mountain a few years ago to work as a camp leader.
But he’s still angry about the organization’s secrecy. He pointed to a statement posted to the Everett council’s website in December. “At no time has the BSA organization knowingly allowed a sexual predator to work with youth …,” it says.
“After all this,’ B.B. said, “they’re still lying.”
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.