Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Part 2

Decades after he molested students in nearby Prospect Park, Edgar Friedrichs Jr. continued his crimes in West Virginia.

By Aina Hunter
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Sep. 29, 2004

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In March 2001 Dan Barber and his apprentice Kristen Kuharik presented 17 binders full of detective work to Sgt. Scott VanMeter of the West Virginia State Police.

VanMeter read through the detective's affidavits from Prospect Park. Then the sergeant, who has since been promoted to captain, examined Barber's meticulous notes from Keith Bowen's and Jeremy Bell's former elementary schools. "Barber said that pedophiles don't quit [hurting children]," said VanMeter. "He obviously did a thorough job, and I had no reason not to trust him."

VanMeter agreed to launch his own investigation. He put two officers on the case, and Sgt. Brad Mankins arranged to meet Keith Bowen in a restaurant parking lot.

They sat in the officer's car, and Mankins pulled out a binder full of Barber's paperwork on Friedrichs. He told Bowen that Friedrichs was under investigation, and that his name had come up.

Though Bowen had never told anyone outside his family what had happened that night in the camper when he was 11, Jeremy's death had weighed on him for the last four years. He knew he couldn't be blamed for what had happened to him as a child, but he hadn't been able to shake the feeling of responsibility.

Maybe if he had told someone, Jeremy wouldn't be dead. So when Mankins asked if Friedrichs had ever done anything to him that he thought was wrong, Bowen hesitated for only a minute.

Police next questioned Jeremy's friends. Four years after their friend's funeral, they were being asked if they'd ever been touched by their old principal. The prosecutor's office had been unable to dig up anything in four years, but within six months state police had gathered enough information from Mikey Pascocciello and John Treadway to get an indictment.

In January 2002 former Prospect Park Elementary School student Joe Stillman traveled from Philadelphia to the Fayette County courthouse to testify in the preliminary hearings for the State of West Virginia v. Edgar W. Friedrichs Jr. Stillman also came to witness the trial of the man who had disrupted his and his brother's lives some 30 years earlier. Marise Stillman, Joe's mother, came in case Friedrichs' lawyer decided to call character witnesses.

None were called, but two individuals did speak on Friedrichs' behalf. His children, now in their 30s, refuted Keith Bowen's story about the camper and the strange juice. They said Bowen was mistaken; their father had not raped him--it would have been impossible in such a small camper.

Yet Judge John W. Hatcher found Bowen credible, and he believed the reluctant allegations of Mikey Pascocciello and John Treadway. During the actual trial they weren't permitted to mention Jeremy's name, but during the preliminary hearing they explained to the judge how weirdly Friedrichs sometimes behaved on their camping and fishing outings. How he seemed to always want to be physically close to Jeremy, how he watched them undress, how he tried to shower with them, how he touched one of them with his penis. One night, said Mikey, Friedrichs told them stories about guys who sold their bodies to other guys when they needed cash.

The teens hunched down in the chair and stammered and mumbled when they answered questions. "They just looked so scared," says Elsie Deal.

Judge Hatcher noticed it too, and remarked that he found it interesting how Friedrichs appeared to be staring down the teenagers as they spoke. But when the grown men testified, Hatcher observed, the predator averted their gazes.

On Jan. 31, 2002, Edgar Friedrichs, who chose not to testify on his own behalf, was found guilty of one felony count of first-degree sexual abuse and three felony counts of sexual abuse by a custodian. The children he was found guilty of harming were Jeremy Bell's two friends, Mikey Pascocciello and John Treadway.

He was sentenced to a minimum of 31 years in prison. When the sheriff's deputies led him away in chains, Marise Stillman broke down in tears.

Elsie Deal, who had served as the catalyst for bringing Friedrichs to justice, suggested that Marise and Joe accompany her and Jeremy's father Roy for a steak dinner.

The only person missing from the table was Dan Barber. He was too busy to take the week off to come down. His apprentice Kuharik says she didn't expect to see him there. "It's typical Dan," says Kuharik. "He does all the work and then doesn't stick around for the payoff."

But Barber was back in his office in Western Pennsylvania, too busy working to take time off for a victory celebration.

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1. Anonymous said... on Feb 11, 2011 at 03:44PM

“I have a comment: He is a pig and should pay more than what he received. He taught me @ Prospect Park Elementary and back then four of us turned him in, and nothing was done back then. What is this world coming to. He was head of the Safety program at Prospect Park Elementary & I always remember him being nasty to the girls and all sweet with the boys. I cannot believe he was referred by Mr. Castle, he was another whack job. I remember this, I am 49 year's old now, and that was in 5th grade. If I could write a letter to him in prison I would tell him exactly what he is. So there are my thoughts on a piece of crap.”


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