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The "perversion files" were maintained by the Boy Scouts decades ago, meant to bar Scout leaders who were accused or even arrested for sexual abuse and other crimes. In many cases, like Dalton's, those warnings and discoveries not only were never turned over to police but were completely ignored by the Scouts organization itself, as leaders with sexual offenses in their history were let right back into leadership roles around children. To wit: Lee Dalton rejoined the Scouts in the late 1970s without the national office's knowledge and again in the '80s with the organization's approval.
Thousands of these confidential files documenting scout abuse and internal response from officials were made public last year by the Los Angeles Times (latimes.com/boyscouts).
By scouring those files and tracing public records and court cases, interviewing Lee Dalton, the pedophile and former Scout master, and interviewing the victim of another former Scoutmaster, it's abundantly clear the extensive abuse and pain detailed decades ago did not end there. Unsurprisingly, the molestation and abuse at the hands of those "deregistered" Scout leaders did not stop when those penalties were levied. Those pedophiles were instead set free into society to abuse again.
A Small Town Predator
Nestled in the rolling farmland of Portage County, Hiram is still a one-stoplight town like it has been for years.
"You talk about a small town? If you blink, you missed it, and it's still that way," jokes 89-year-old Marjorie Vondle during a lunch for area senior citizens in the basement of the Hiram Christian Church. The town has changed, though, she says, reminiscing about the times before school consolidation forced kids to travel to Mantua instead of the center of Hiram and the few businesses (the store, a beauty parlor, and gas station) shut down. "We even lost our library."
"It was busy, active—there were things going on," she says, bemoaning the loss of interaction she once had with her neighbors while she worked in the town's grocery store in the 1960s. "We had a high school until 1964, so we had school and church activities going on."
The town may have been more active and tight knit in the past than today, but back then it was significantly more isolated from outside people and ideas.
"When I graduated in 1954, we had 56 kids in our high school, it was a very, very small-nested group of kids" says Roger Masters, who's lived all but a few of his 77 years in his family's pre-Civil War plank house a few miles out of town.
The isolated, church-centered, small Ohio town was not on the forefront of the impending sexual revolution.
"It was a conservative, Republican area," says Masters. "Hiram had missionaries coming in and out. The college was straight laced, no drinking. The kids had to go to Parkman or Drakesburg if they wanted to do any drinking. Can you imagine that? It was dry into the '70s."
Luke Elbert Dalton, Jr,—known his whole life as just Lee Dalton—was not a normal Hiram kid when he came to town in the early 1950s, nor was he a normal man when he left town and entered the "perversion files" in 1966. An outsider born in 1941, he was an Army brat who spent time on military bases across the country, Austria, and Japan immediately following World War II. Dalton's father, Luke Sr., settled the family in town when he was in eighth grade. It was the first time they didn't have to quickly pick up and move.
"My father was an alcoholic," says Dalton in a phone interview set up after Scene informed him he would be featured in an article about Northeast Ohio Scout leaders listed in the perversion files. "I think his alcohol probably caused some major problems in the Army for him because we were transferred much more frequently than other families were. He was an officer, a major. I don't know how many schools [I attended] before I was able to settle down before Hiram."
His father was abusive, Dalton says. Not physically or sexually, he said, but mentally: "I've always had a problem with... nowadays they call it self esteem."
The year they moved to Hiram, they joined the Hiram Christian Church and Dalton joined the Boy Scouts troop it sponsored, the same troop he would eventually lead, the same troop where he would find boys to "groom" for molesting.
Masters recalls the kids on the outside of town learning about sex on the farms, and kids on the inside—usually the offspring of professors at the college—learning from academic books. Dalton says he learned it from all of the "sex play" that happened among the "neighborhood kids" growing up on Army bases. It happened in each location, he claimed.
"Japan was where I remember it starting, in first or second grade," he says. "What I remember there was a little girl who was teaching all of the little boys the facts of life. Then, on other bases, it was other boys. It was just a continuous thing, as I remember it."
Used to the "sex play" among peers on military bases, Dalton didn't fit in with other teens in small-town Hiram, Ohio.
"I think what had happened was I just developed a fascination with sex and then when I got into normal circumstances, it didn't go over well with people my age," he says. "And so I think what happened was I began turning to younger kids."