Scout scandal linked to state
About two dozen people with connections to the Boy Scouts of America in West Virginia are tied to accusations of sexual abuse, according to an online database of alleged incidents unveiled Thursday by The Los Angeles Times.
The Times said the database, based on decades of previously and newly released court files, has information on 5,000 men and a handful of women expelled by the Boy Scouts on suspicion of sexual abuse.
Twenty-five Scout units from Huntington, Parkersburg, New Martinsville and a handful of other West Virginia towns and cities are linked to allegations of abuse, though documents provide details on only three incidents tied to the state.
The records are not necessarily proof of criminal activity but instead represent the Boy Scouts' own records. In many of the cases, no formal charges were filed.
Nationally, the "perversion files" include decades worth of activity. There's information on cases with West Virginia connections starting in 1964 in Huntington and ending in 2003 in Fayetteville.
One particularly vivid allegation involves a report of a Wednesday, July 19, 1972, incident at the Sandcrest Scout Reservation in Wheeling.
Forty years ago, one Scout official wrote to another higher up the chain of command.
"The person involved is John C. Gower, Scoutmaster of Troop 82 sponsored by the P. T. A., Glen Dale Elementary School in Glen Dale, West Virginia," the letter said. "Mr. Gower, a former professional Scouter, was assisting with the summer campfire programs at camp on Wednesday and Friday evenings. Two hours after the campfire program his car was observed parked on the camp road near a campsite."
The camp director and program director - whose names were redacted - were sent to "observe any irregularities."
"They detected a noise from one tent and (redacted) shining a flashlight into the tent, opened the front flap and observed Gower on his knees with his head in a boy's crotch," the letter said. "(Redacted) told Gower to stand still; however, he ran out of the rear of the tent and into the wooded area.
"He was followed by flashlight by (named redacted) and (name redacted). They then removed the rotor from his car distributor so the car would be unmovable, put a note on the windshield to report to the camp office and called me at 1:30 a.m. to inform me of the above events."
Gower was about 44 years old, 6 feet 2 inches tall, and worked in the shoe department at a clothing store, according to the files.
In a letter dated July 21, Gower wrote a letter to "Scout Parents," according to the files.
"Your Scout sons may have told you by now that I will not be going on the Canadian trip with them - an announcement I made at the close of yesterday's troop meeting," he said. "I have been putting off some needed surgery but it should not be prolonged any further, so I've decided to spend my 1972 vacation in surgery and in recuperation."
"This will not affect, in any way, the boys' Canadian trip," he wrote.
Gower signed the full-page letter, "Hoping to remain friends."
Royce Lee Adkins, a then-28-year-old student at Marshall University, left the Scouts in fall 1971 after he was asked to resign on the basis of information and personal interviews with young men who made statements, including one who alleged inappropriate touching.
"Gentlemen," Adkins wrote to the Tri-State Area Council on Nov. 2, 1971, according to the files, "For personal reasons I find it necessary to resign from all phases of the Scouting program."
A description of Adkins said he was about 5 feet 10 inches tall and had black eyes and black hair.
The files said his hobby was he liked to make and wear Indian costumes and ceremonial gear. "His work is good," Adkins' filed noted.