Decades after he molested students in nearby Prospect Park, Edgar Friedrichs Jr. continued his crimes in West Virginia.
By the end of March 2001 private investigator Dan Barber thought he'd gathered almost enough evidence to convince the West Virginia state police to investigate Edgar Friedrichs for child molestation.
He'd spent the past year going back in time, to Prospect Park Elementary School in Delaware County, where Friedrichs taught for the first nine years of his career. From countless interviews he figured out which kids had spent time at Friedrichs' home, or were observed in his car, or were considered teacher's pets. He and apprentice Kristen Kuharik used the phone book and school yearbooks to find names and addresses.
Finally he and Kuharik approached the former "golden boys," as Barber called them. When the difficult sessions were complete, he had what he'd come for: stories from grown men who said they'd been sexually violated by their former fifth-grade teacher and "safety instructor" Edgar Friedrichs.
Barber was that much closer to making good on his promise to the family of a 12-year-old West Virginia boy who had died in Friedrichs' fishing cabin in 1997. Evidence gathered at the scene indicated foul play, but four years had gone by with no arrest.
Barber didn't promise he could get Friedrichs indicted for murder. He knew that could be a tall order to fill. But if the goal was to get him out of the classroom and behind bars, Barber would put his energies into proving that Friedrichs was a child predator. In West Virginia felonious sexual abuse by a custodian carries a minimum sentence of 10 to 20 years.
His instincts--developed over 38 years in law enforcement--told him the boy who had been with Jeremy his last night had more information than the sheriff's deputies had gleaned. And Jeremy's other two friends, who also hung out around Friedrichs, had probably been victimized too.
But the investigator was not yet ready to approach the West Virginia boys, who were now teenagers. Instead Barber continued gathering evidence in his methodical, painstaking way. He was looking for the link--proof that Friedrichs was the same predator he'd been back in Prospect Park.
He knew that somewhere in West Virginia there was a former victim, someone who could shed light on Friedrichs' relationship with Jeremy and his friends.
Through endless interviews with school secretaries, janitors, teacher's aides and parents, Barber and Kuharik found their link. His name was Keith Bowen.
Being the principal's little buddy was the best. Mr. Friedrichs had a son and a daughter his age, and by the end of the 1984-'85 school year Keith Bowen felt like an auxiliary member of a worldly, unusual family.
On weekend camping trips Keith and the principal's son were allowed to chew tobacco, shoot BB guns and look at porn. Keith could ask Mr. Friedrichs frank questions about sex, and the man would chat with him as if he were an equal.
True, sometimes Friedrichs made him feel weird. He would get too close and touch him "accidentally on purpose." But Keith wouldn't betray him by tattling. He also knew that if he told anyone about the weird touching, he'd have to admit to looking at porn.
But everything changed one night on a camping trip the summer after fifth grade. He and Friedrichs' kids were getting ready to go to sleep in the camper when Friedrichs insisted they each drink a cup of bitter Kool-Aid with some sort of chalky grit in it. They didn't want to, but Friedrichs insisted.
When they'd emptied their cups, Friedrichs sent his daughter to bed, drawing the little curtain divider closed. Then he told the boys they were going to play a "hypnotizing game," which sounded like fun. After all, these were the days of Oujia boards and Magic 8 Balls.
The next thing Keith remembers is opening his eyes to find his former principal performing oral sex on him. He yelled, waking up his friends. He felt disoriented, and remembers being smacked in the face while being told he'd had some sort of attack.
Friedrichs insisted Keith must have suffered some sort of nightmare. Keith knew that wasn't true. The nightmare was just beginning.
After leaving Delaware County in 1975 under a cloud of allegations involving child molestation, Edgar Friedrichs got a new teaching job in West Virginia. He was 33, with nearly 10 years of teaching experience and letters of recommendation from two different Prospect Park Elementary School principals.
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