Don't Ask, Don't Tell

A local teacher who molested his charges was allowed to take a new job in West Virginia, where a student died in his care.

By Aina Hunter
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 5 | Posted Sep. 22, 2004

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From the stories extracted from the children--particularly those who served as crossing guards--Friedrichs had not only molested a number of boys, but had engaged in statutory rape.

The police were never involved. The parents, most of them now in their 60s, say principal Robert Castle and his superintendent believed it better if things were handled quietly. (Castle could not be reached for comment. His former secretary told PW that he'd moved to an undisclosed address in Florida.)

Mr. Friedrichs and his wife simply disappeared.

Marise Stillman was incredulous: How could the school district simply send a predator on his way?

When the mother of another victim phoned, begging her to let it go because she didn't want her son embarrassed, Marise got the impression that the woman thought her own child was somehow responsible.

All this did was galvanize Marise Stillman's efforts to see justice done. On the advice of a lawyer, she petitioned the court to indict Friedrichs. The lawyer had her son John evaluated by a child psychologist, then said he would have to tell a judge exactly what had happened in the classroom.

John, just 12, was having a hard time dealing with the embarrassing narrative of the story, so his brothers helped him practice. "If Friedrichs touched your dick, you have to say he touched your dick," they told him.

But when he was brought in to testify, all John could do was cry. Finally magistrate Robert Shaffer led him out of the courtroom and said, according to the Stillmans, "We can't do anything with this." (Reached late last week for comment on his handling of the Stillmans' case, Shaffer had no recollection of it.)

They took John home, and it seemed the whole miserable affair would end there. But Marise's feelings hadn't changed.

At a school board meeting she stood up and asked her neighbors a single question: In failing to involve the police, are you willing to take responsibility for whatever happens next?


Twenty-seven years would pass before Marise Stillman would hear the name Edgar Friedrichs again.

Then in 2000 she received a visit from a private investigator who wanted to know what she remembered about her children's fifth-grade teacher.

Daniel Barber--a gray-haired, pot-bellied, pipe-smoking character right out of a Mickey Spillane novel--told Marise Stillman he'd been hired by the family of a dead child. Then he told a story that put Marise and her husband into a state of shock.

The story was this: Jeremy Bell, a fifth-grader in Fayette County, W.V., had been on an overnight fishing trip with his school's principal. Somehow the boy wound up dead from a mysterious head injury. The name of the principal--and this was the part that stunned Marise Stillman--was Edgar Friedrichs.

An autopsy showed Jeremy Bell had suffered trauma severe enough to cause his brain to burst out of its casing. In addition, there was enough amitriptyline in the blood of the 98-pound boy to knock him out cold.

Amitriptyline is an antidepressant that pediatricians sometimes use to sedate children.

And there was something else. Jeremy Bell's friend, asleep in the next room when Jeremy received the head trauma, told police that before going to bed Friedrichs had the two boys play the "juice game"--a game which essentially amounted to each of the boys downing a cup of bitter chalky liquid in one gulp.

Still no arrest was made, and the Fayette County Sheriff's Office closed the investigation after only three days. Further, when the autopsy report became public, the prosecutor was quoted in the local paper as saying there appeared to be no evidence of foul play. Friedrichs took the rest of the school year off with pay.

The Bell family, hardworking West Virginians by birth, believed that people were covering for Friedrichs because he had money. Though his salary from the school district was $44,000 a year, he owned property worth millions of dollars. He'd bought the property, he said, with money he'd inherited.

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COMMENTS

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1. Anonymous said... on Feb 16, 2011 at 11:48AM

“Where did friedricks live while he worked in Prospect Park...are there reports of him molesting in the neighborhoods (in wooded areas or on streets) at this time? Did he only molest children well known to him.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Jul 28, 2011 at 10:18AM

“He went after well groom, good standing boys. I had him when I was at Interboro (5th grade) We would everyday, have to write our letters ABCs
once we were done a page, we would take it up to him and he would correct it with the students next to him. He always always have his hand around the the boys and hold them tight while checking the work. only the boys no girls I will never forget that, never understood why he did that.
he also had the boys desk around his deck. He was a very mean teacher”

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3. Anonymous said... on Jul 28, 2011 at 10:27AM

“CON'T FROM ABOVE
Interboro knew what he was!! in my class it was a boy name Steve his father was a priest and quess who started to go to church? i know because I went to that church too! Steve's father caught on what this guy was!!
he went to the school broad back then and they did nothing about! Quess who stop going to church once Steve;s father did that! i will never forget him because is was so mean to the kids, you never step out of line with him
years later when I heard what he did the past made sense to me”

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4. Anonymous said... on Jul 28, 2011 at 10:08PM

“I heard about this, but first time I read all about it. I will never forget being in his class for math, and since I had switched schools the prior year, I was never taught short division. I was a smart kid, and rather than simply take a few minutes to teach me this after class, he put me into a lower math class (his was the highest). I liked my new Math teacher, but was bored to death!! It always bothered me why he did that. He was a popular teacher as far as I knew then, so it really made me feel bad. But alas, I am a female!! Now all is clear. Even when I became a safety, finally, as it was a coveted position, and it was full of boys, I never could see why kids thought he was so great. I hated him for putting me a dumber class, and I always thought he was mean to students. Now it all makes sense. I am horrified what he did to my classmates! I remember those huge closets, I am so sorry anyone was abused like that.”

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5. Kim said... on May 21, 2014 at 09:28PM

“I was probably one of the few female students in his "inner circle" at Prospect Park Elementary. He saw I had artistic talent so I stayed after class so he could help me with painting. And I got a ride home in the totally awesome mustang convertible (66-67). And there were times that a certain few of us (mostly boys, and me) got to have a ride to his house in Collingdale. I must say that he never approached me in an inappropriate way-but I was clearly not his ultimate interest. Words cannot express about what happened to my classmates and Jeremy Bell-it is just unbelievable and sickening.”

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