By PETER ZUCKERMAN . PZUCKERMAN@POSTREGISTER.COM . AND POST REGISTER STAFF

COPYRIGHT 2005 POST REGISTER

The whistle-blower

His first week of Boy Scout camp, 14-year-old junior counselor Adam Steed marched into the director's office and said: "Brad Stowell is molesting Scouts."

Brad wouldn't do that, said the man behind the desk.

Adam Steed

"How can it be right that Brad goes into boys' tents alone, gives them massages and touches them where he shouldn't?" the Pocatello teenager asked.

"We've talked to Brad," Elias Lopez said. "He promised me he doesn't massage below the waist."

Adam asked to go home.

Stay, Lopez said.

Adam asked to call his parents.

Don't tell them about Stowell, Lopez said.

Adam stomped out, frustrated. It wasn't the first time he had complained.

This is Adam Steed's account, told publicly for the first time.

Ben Steed

The adults wouldn't stop Stowell, so Adam decided to do it himself. With help from his little brother, Ben, he gathered a group of victims who told their stories and demanded someone call the police.

About four days later, on July 11, 1997, many of the roughly 300 children at camp gathered by the dining hall as deputies arrested Stowell and hauled him away.

Charged with sex abuse, Stowell eventually pleaded guilty to molesting two boys.

A district judge sentenced Stowell to 150 days -- the time often served by repeat drunk drivers -- and put him on probation for 15 years.

Then came the lawsuits. Victims other than the Steed boys alleged the Boy Scouts knew Stowell was a risk and hired him anyway.

The Scouts had the lawsuit files closed and settled the claims.

When one file was finally released to the public last month, it revealed that before the Scouts settled the suits and paid the victims, Stowell had testified under oath that from 1988 to 1997 he molested at least 24 boys, many of them Scout campers. Another victim was 6 years old. Scout leaders testified they received warnings but went ahead and hired Stowell.

Stowell is now 32, married and living on the 800 block of Chantilly Lane in Idaho Falls. He works at an eastern Idaho recreational vehicle dealership, hasn't reoffended and was recently accepted to law school. He said he's changed and that this publicity is unfair.

But Adam, now a junior studying science at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, said he has trouble understanding how Stowell molested so many kids and served so little time in jail.

Local Scout volunteers, he said, do great work and shouldn't be tarnished by the actions of a few.

The camp director, Elias Lopez, wasn't being malicious, Adam said; he was poorly trained and following orders.

The Scouting professionals at the Grand Teton Council (which overseas Scouting in the region) didn't do their jobs and allowed a pedophile to devastate the lives of dozens of children, Adam said.

Nearly eight years later, Adam still wants to know: Why did it take a 14-year-old to finally confront the molester?

Brad Stowell looked like someone parents trust: button-down shirts, trimmed hair and a ready smile.

He had served an LDS mission, he worked for the Boy Scouts as a teenager, his mother was on the Boy Scouts board of directors. He talked Scouting and religion. He brought his fiancee with him as he schmoozed neighbors, including the Steeds.

He ate dinner at the Steed home in Pocatello, gave Ben and Adam rides in his souped-up Toyota 4-by-4 and cheered at Adam's wrestling meets.

"He came with all the credentials and had the appearance of someone you want your children around," said Adam's father, Paul Steed, who teaches at the LDS church's Century Seminary in Pocatello.

Everyone in the neighborhood seemed to love Stowell, too, and Paul and Deborah Steed were flattered when he asked their sons to work with him at Camp Little Lemhi.

Stowell invited Adam to camp early. He said four other staffers would be sleeping in the same room and he needed Adam's help "to make sure camp was ready."

It was a lie.

Little, if any, work was done on the camp. Stowell opened a cabin on the east side of the lake, talked about the soft mattresses and placed two sleeping bags on the same bed, zippers facing each other. The bed was in a room away from the others.

Adam moved his sleeping bag to the floor.

Stowell put it back on the bed.

"I want to sleep alone," Adam said.

Scouts often sleep together, Stowell said.

Adam woke later that night to heavy breathing.

Someone had unzipped his bag and undone his clothes.

Stowell hovered overhead, naked. His hands were busy where they shouldn't be.

"What is going on?" Adam thought. He tried to move, but was petrified.

Stowell breathed faster and louder.

Adam sat up and acted like he'd just woken.

Stowell moved away.

Adam stayed awake most the night praying Stowell wouldn't return.

After the so-called work day, Adam went home, fearful of the man who used to look like a perfect Scout.

Adam didn't want to return to the camp.

Stowell told the Steeds their son couldn't break his commitment and that Camp Little Lemhi was understaffed.

Adam braced himself.

"You got one, too?" another counselor said when he saw Adam's necklace on the first day of camp. "I burned mine."

"Why?" Adam asked.

"Don't you know?"

Adam didn't.

Stowell slipped the leather necklace around Adam's neck six months before camp. He called it a "friendship necklace" and said he got it on his LDS mission.

Other boys had them, too. Stowell made them seem cool, something Scouts earned -- like a merit badge.

Adam pressed the boy. Why burn it? Because, Adam was told, Stowell gave necklaces to the boys he touched in the dark.

Adam boiled. He recruited his 12-year-old brother to spy on Stowell and hunt for other victims.

Necklace-wearers were easy to find but reluctant to talk. Children, especially teenage boys, often feel humiliated if they're molested. They may think they'll get in trouble if they tell anyone what's happened to them.

When victims did open up to Adam, they reported attacks like his own.

Scouts are taught to remember three R's to keep themselves safe from abuse: Recognize danger, Resist abusers and Report.

It was time to Report.

One problem. Such reports were supposed to go to the program director: Brad Stowell.

Adam went to the man in charge of the whole camp.

Gathering his courage, he found the camp director by the bell in the center of camp.

Adam felt like he'd pass out, but he spoke to Lopez in a clear voice: "I need to talk to you."

It took a long time, and Adam still didn't think Lopez believed him.

Don't worry, Lopez said when they were done.

Adam kept an eye on Stowell, and a few hours later, Lopez pulled Adam aside to talk again.

He had talked to his supervisor and to Stowell. Everything had been resolved, the man said.

But within two days, Stowell followed Adam to his tent at night, crept inside and tried to touch him.

Adam ran.

He dashed to the north side of the lake, where a white canvas tent stood near the dock. Panting, Adam sat amid the noisy crowd of campers.

Some time later, perhaps 20 minutes, Stowell walked in. He opened a Bible and sat next to one of the children to read Scriptures. In his right hand, Stowell held the Good Book. With his left hand, he massaged a child's shoulder. Ben and Adam watched the hand move down the child's pants.

The child, one of the youngest in the room, didn't say anything. He looked shocked, a forced smile on his face.

Older staffers laughed at Stowell's jokes and listened to a story. Didn't they notice?

So Adam stood up. "Don't do that," he said in a voice everyone could hear.

Stowell ignored him.

Adam wedged his arms between Stowell and the boy and pried them apart.

Stowell kept talking.

From the beginning, Stowell had separated Ben and Adam from most of the other Scouts, putting the brothers alone in a tent on the north side of the lake. Most campers slept in larger groups in a different area.

Ben, a heavy sleeper, woke one night (as best he can recall, four nights later) and noticed he'd been moved outside. His sleeping bag was unzipped.

He dragged his sleeping gear inside, tied the tent closed, zipped his bag and fell asleep.

He woke again, perhaps an hour later. Again, someone had dragged him outside and unzipped his sleeping bag.

This time, he tied the tent closed with a fist-sized knot. He asked his brother, now awake, what was going on.

"Be careful," Adam said.

The third time Ben woke outside, Stowell's hand covered his mouth. Ben tried to yell but couldn't. He struggled free, and Stowell ran away.

Adam and Ben were furious: This kind of stuff shouldn't happen at Scout camp.

The next day, Adam, who wanted to be an Eagle Scout, stopped all work on merit badges. He spied on Stowell full time. He followed him when he went into tents alone, stopping him when he tried to touch kids.

By now, Adam was reporting each incident to Lopez, who didn't seem to believe him and kept telling Adam he was calling his supervisors.

When Adam gathered Scouts who were willing to walk with him into Lopez's office, he demanded the camp leader call the police.

Instead, Lopez wanted to call the Scouting office.

Adam shook his head. "This is a police matter."

Everything is OK, the man said. Brad won't go alone into tents anymore.

Adam asked for a phone.

The Scouts are taught to "always be prepared," but Adam wasn't ready for the backlash.

Nobody believed him.

The molester said he'd been framed for accidentally brushing a child's rear on an obstacle course. Plenty of folks believed that.

Classmates gossiped that it was Adam's fault. That's what he got for spending so much time with Stowell.

After Stowell was arrested, Paul Steed, a loyal worker in the LDS church's Scouting program, had to press his sons for their story. They resisted for a half-hour.

"They said they weren't allowed to say what happened," he said.

Adam's classmates, who didn't read the court file, harassed him.

The Scouts never defended the whistle-blower's honor either, the Steeds say.

And the news media weren't helpful, publishing few details.

"Many of the parents don't know what happened to their children," Paul Steed said. The Scouts and the courts didn't tell parents, he said, even when they should have suspected there were more victims.

For at least four years, Scout leaders had access to a sworn statement from Brad Stowell in which he said he began abusing boys at camp in 1988 and victimized two dozen boys, many of them campers.

Based on what a prosecutor once told them, the Steeds thought Stowell would get a standard sentence for a serial molester: about 20 years in prison.

When the time came for court, hardly any victims would testify, the Steeds said. Parents, who didn't know what happened, loved Stowell. Youngsters didn't want to criticize the Boy Scouts. Adam was on his own.

The rumors and harassment were so bad at his high school that he left, took the GED to graduate and took college courses.

"I felt like I was the one who got in trouble," he said.

Still, Adam said he knew he did the right thing. When he feels upset, he can look at the letter the courts ordered Stowell to write him:

"I'm sure I would have continued going to camp had I not been caught. ... I was always creating a circle of more lies, more deception and more opportunities to abuse boys for my gratification. That was my ultimate goal with the boys I befriended."

If he had not exposed Stowell, Adam said, he could have enjoyed high school.

The Boy Scouts might have treated him better.

They might have recruited him to help lead campers.

Instead, he did what Scouts are supposed to do: help other people ... stay morally straight ... do a good turn daily.

Today, Brad Stowell is an Eagle Scout with five palms.

Adam Steed is not.

Idaho Falls reporter Peter Zuckerman can be reached at 542-6750.


Scout leaders' defense

Boy Scout leaders say they stopped the molester at Camp Little Lemhi as fast as they could, but not as fast as they'd have liked.

Brad Stowell was slick, the camp leaders facing a negligence lawsuit say.

He used church, Scout and family connections to prey on boys. He lied to leaders, promising he wouldn't go into cabins alone. He pretended not to know leaders are never to be alone with Scouts.

"Abusers are good deceivers," said Kim Hansen, executive director of the Grand Teton Council, and even one molestation case is too many.

Stowell's victims agree with the Scouts on that much. Brad Stowell had all the credentials of someone people trust: an Eagle award, excellent school grades, his church's approval to serve as a missionary.

But no matter how good the Boy Scouts' child protection policy is -- and experts agree it's one of the best -- a determined pedophile can slip into the ranks of 30,000 volunteers and Scouts who belong to the Grand Teton Council.

In the seven camp seasons since Stowell's arrest, there haven't been any other known pedophiles, Hansen said. He has been with the Grand Teton Council since 1993 and said Stowell is the only case of which he knows.

Hansen said that while he is sorry for the victims, he is confident the Scouts have done what they could to help, calling two of the families and providing one with counseling.

Pressed for the number of victims, he said, "I personally talked to two parents." The third parent was an employee of the camp and knew what was going on, he said.

Hansen said the Grand Teton Council's review of what happened shows adult leaders followed Scout policies and quickly got rid of the molester.

The man who was in charge of Camp Little Lemhi on the day of Stowell's arrest won't discuss how the complaints against Stowell were handled. Former camp director Elias Lopez referred questions to Scout lawyers, who have refused several requests for interviews. (They have even refused to identify themselves when they appear at Scout court hearings.)

Although Lopez won't answer questions, recently unsealed files of a civil lawsuit against the Scouts include his sworn testimony.

Under oath, Lopez said his only problem with Stowell before the arrest concerned giving a minor a ride home when there was no other adult with him.

That's against Scout rules, and Stowell acted like it was an oversight, Lopez said.

That's the only time he ever heard about Stowell being alone with a child, Lopez said.

"At that time, I felt very comfortable with (Stowell's) leadership and that he had obeyed the rules."

Lopez said he talked to Adam Steed, the whistle-blower, because two 16-year-old counselors told him to do it. Lopez said Adam, who seemed scared, approached him alone.

Although Adam and his brother say they reported abuse to Lopez several times, Lopez said the only conversation he had with them was on 9:30 a.m. the day before Stowell's arrest.

Adam told him Stowell had touched him inappropriately. Lopez was shocked but believed the boy, he said.

In sworn testimony, Lopez said Stowell told him about his habit of giving boys backrubs and massages but assured him he did nothing inappropriate.

Lopez testified he was never given any information about Stowell's history of abuse. After the Steeds' report, he said, he called Hansen, the executive director, who told him "unless there was skin-to-skin contact ... we wouldn't be able to do much legally except keep a close eye on Brad."

According to Lopez, Hansen contacted the authorities and Lopez interviewed Stowell, who was feeling sick and denied the allegations. Lopez waited for the authorities to arrive while he kept an eye on Adam.

After the arrest, the Grand Teton Council conducted no formal post-mortem discussion of what happened, Lopez testified. Asked whether Hansen came up with any new rules, guidelines or practices, Lopez said no.

Scout leaders followed their policies, Hansen said, and acted swiftly. Changes were not needed.

Hansen said the Grand Teton Council's review of what happened shows adult leaders followed Scout policies and quickly got rid of the molester.

Under oath, Lopez said his only problem with Stowell before the arrest concerned giving a minor a ride home when there was no other adult with him.

Asked whether Hansen came up with any new rules, guidelines or practices, Lopez said no.


Multiple Warnings

1988-2005

By Jerry Painter / Post Register

1988 Brad Stowell, 16, admits to Blackfoot police, his mother and his LDS bishop that he molested a 6-year-old neighbor. He is sent to LDS Social Services counseling.

1988 Stowell is hired to teach first aid at Camp Little Lemhi. He has testified he started preying on campers that summer.

1989 Brad Stowell is hired as a waterfront instructor at Camp Little Lemhi.

1990 Brad Stowell is rehired at Camp Little Lemhi.

1991 Camp director Richard Snow hires Stowell as assistant aquatics director.

1991 Richard J. Scarborough reports to the national Boy Scouts of America that a child molester has been hired to work at Camp Little Lemhi.

1992/93 The LDS church sends Stowell on a mission to Alaska, where, he now admits, he molested at least one child.

1993 Judith Stowell, mother of Brad Stowell, joins Grand Teton Council Executive Board after 14 years as a Cub Scout leader.

January 1994 Richard Scarborough writes to the LDS church president, complaining that local church leaders are ignoring his warning about the pedophile in the LDS Scout troop.

January 1995 Carol Scarborough tells Camp Little Lemhi program director Jim Summers that Brad Stowell molested a neighbor boy.

1995 Camp Little Lemhi director Richard Snow hires Stowell as aquatics director.

1995 Office of Elder Vaughan Featherstone of the LDS church First Quorum of the Seventy forwards a tip about Stowell to the Boy Scouts of America's official church liaison, C. Hart Bullock. Bullock orders the Grand Teton Council to check it out.

June 1995 Grand Teton Council executive Brad Allen calls Stowell's bishop, who confirms Stowell was sent to counseling after the 1988 incident. When asked, Stowell tells Allen there was an "incident" but says he is over it.

1996 Camp Little Lemhi director Robert Fawcett promotes Stowell to camp program director.

June 1996 Fawcett admonishes Stowell to stop breaking Scout rules against being alone with campers and touching them too much.

1997 Little Lemhi director Elias Lopez rehires Stowell as program director.

June 1997 Lopez admonishes Stowell to stop breaking Scout rules against being alone with campers.

July 11, 1997 Stowell is arrested at Camp Little Lemhi for child sex abuse.

Stowell

Dec. 3, 1997 Stowell is sentenced to five months in jail, plus 15 years probation.

January 2001 A court refuses victim's request to open files in the negligence case against the Boy Scouts.

2001, 2004 Negligence cases are settled.

2005 Court records in one of the negligence cases are opened.

Sources: Sworn testimony and exhibits from Bonneville County civil case CV-99-3416




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