Missed opportunities

Leaders of Scouts, church had multiple chances to stop abuser

Chance 1: Mother and bishop, 1988

B. Stowell

Paid professionals at the Grand Teton Council hired a child molester to work at Camp Little Lemhi even though they, the national Boy Scout office and troop sponsors in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were warned about Brad Stowell.

Court records, which the Boy Scouts' lawyers fought to hide from public view, show the warnings might have been sufficient to disqualify Stowell from Scouting six years before he was finally arrested.

But Stowell might never have had the chance to prey on Scout campers if his mother, who knew he had a problem, had steered him away from youth programs.

Stowell's mother, the family's LDS bishop and at least one Blackfoot police officer knew as early as 1988 that he had molested a child.

Police found out, pulled 16-year-old Stowell out of class and interrogated him at the police station. He confessed -- to his mother, Judith Stowell, and later to his LDS bishop -- that he had molested a 6-year-old neighbor boy. No charges were filed, but Judith Stowell and her husband had to drive him from Blackfoot to Pocatello for counseling for about six months, she said in her sworn testimony on the case.

Both Judith Stowell and Bishop Lorin Talbot were in a position to steer the pedophile away from Camp Little Lemhi and into some other activity that didn't involve children.

A warning from Talbot would have carried considerable clout with the Scouts.


Since 1913, Boy Scouting has been the LDS church's official program for young men, which is why almost every troop in eastern Idaho is LDS-church sponsored.

"I've really got nothing to say," Talbot said in a Saturday phone interview. "He went through the counseling, and they figured he was OK."

Judith Stowell had considerable pull with the Grand Teton Council, too. A Cub Scout leader since 1979, she was on the board of directors of the Grand Teton Council by the time Brad Stowell was a teenager.

Efforts to reach Judith Stowell at her Pocatello phone number for comment were unsuccessful.

In summer 1988, she allowed her son to take a job teaching first aid at Camp Little Lemhi. Grand Teton Council troops from Idaho, Wyoming and Montana brought about 300 boys per week to learn outdoor skills.

Brad Stowell molested his first Scout camp victim that summer.

He has testified that he continued to prey on boys right up until he was arrested nine years later. He admitted under sworn court testimony to molesting 24 boys.

Toward the end of his camp career, Brad Stowell has said in court-ordered apologies to his victims, he felt invincible. Although admonished not to, he showered attention on a few boys, giving them gifts and back rubs. The back rubs progressed to massages that ended with him fondling boys' private parts while Stowell pleasured himself. Wrestling and piggyback rides were chances for more groping. In the dark, he snuck into tents and forced sex acts on sleeping boys. On weekends, he flouted the rule against leaders being alone with boys by giving them rides home, which also led to molestations off camp premises.

When Brad Stowell was arrested in 1997, Judith Stowell was on the Grand Teton Council executive committee. Today, she is listed as a Hall of Fame honoree on the Grand Teton Council's Web site.

Chance 2: Boy Scouts headquarters, 1991

In May 1991, a Blackfoot man named Richard Scarborough wrote to the national Boy Scout office in Irving, Texas, complaining that his reports about a child molester named Brad Stowell were being ignored by eastern Idaho Scout leaders and the troop's sponsors in the LDS church.

Called as a witness in a victim's lawsuit against the Scouts, Scarborough said he knew about Stowell because a church bishop had told him Stowell abused a neighbor. The bishop was inquiring about the safety of Scarborough's sons, who were in Scouts with Stowell.

Court files recently unsealed do not make it clear what the national staff of the Boy Scouts did about Scarborough's report, and Post Register efforts to further interview Scarborough have been unsuccessful.

But the Scouts maintain an "Ineligible Volunteer" file that it uses to weed out boys and adults who don't fit the organization's high moral standards.

Chance 3: Cleared for LDS mission, 1993

Stowell did not work for the Grand Teton Council the summers of 1992, 1993 and 1994 while he attended Idaho State University and served an LDS mission in Anchorage, Alaska.

Queries sent to the LDS church public affairs office in Salt Lake City regarding Stowell's worthiness for missionary service have not yet been answered.

But returned missionaries and former mission presidents have told the Post Register that Stowell should never have been cleared to serve once he confessed to his bishop that he molested a boy.

Parents and Scout leaders have said his status as a returned missionary led them to trust Stowell.

In a phone interview Saturday, Lorin Talbot, the Blackfoot bishop who heard Stowell's confession in 1988, said he trusted experts who said Stowell was cured. He couldn't recall the LDS Social Services counselor's name, but Talbot said he was told it was a one-time incident. By the time Stowell was called to the mission field, Talbot had been released from his bishop's duties.

While serving in the Alaska Anchorage Mission, Stowell committed sex abuse at least once, he has confessed under oath.

Talbot said Saturday was the first time he heard that.

There is no indication in the court file that the Boy Scouts or its lawyers alerted Alaska officials to seek out that victim or victims after Stowell told them in 1999.

Under Idaho law, religious counselors such as priests, pastors or LDS bishops are not required to report suspected child abuse the way the Scout leaders, school teachers and other youth workers are.

Chance 4: LDS leaders misinformed, 1994

Frustrated by the failure of local Scout and church officials to oust Brad Stowell, Richard Scarborough finally wrote in January 1994 to his faith's prophet, seer and revelator: LDS church President Ezra Taft Benson.

"There is an individual (Bradley Stowell) who was sent on a mission ... This individual sexually molested a six-year-old boy," Scarborough wrote.

Armed with the knowledge of Stowell's 1988 offense, the worldwide leadership of the church could have either ordered him to quit Scouting or ordered its Scout troops to put him on the ineligible volunteer list.

But three members of the Northwest Area Presidency of the LDS church signed a letter to Scarborough in April 1994, saying the allegation was reported to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, an investigation was made, and "it was determined the nature of the allegations warranted no further action."

It's unclear how church officials obtained the information because Idaho law prohibits Health and Welfare from releasing such details to private individuals or organizations, particularly in a case involving a juvenile.

In addition, the church leaders' account contradicts what the Grand Teton Council's lawyer divulged in 2001 at the end of the first lawsuit against the Scouts.

The 1988 case was "seriously investigated" by Blackfoot police and the Health and Welfare, attorney Gary Dance said. After consultation with Stowell's bishop, "a remedy was fashioned," Dance told the Post Register. Stowell received six months of counseling and wrote a letter of apology to the family, Dance said.

Black's Law Dictionary defines a remedy as "the means by which a right is enforced or the violation of a right is prevented, redressed or compensated."

Chance 5: Camp Little Lemhi staff, 1995

The Scouts missed another chance to stop Stowell in 1995, when Jim Summers, the camp's program director, was told Stowell was a pedophile.

Efforts to interview Summers were unsuccessful, but his sworn deposition is found in the recently unsealed files of a civil lawsuit filed by one of Stowell's victims.

"Brad had recently returned from an LDS mission. I called and asked him if he wanted to come interview," Summers testified in 1999.

Summers said he wanted him to run the waterfront even though a teacher at Stalker Elementary School in Blackfoot warned him Stowell had abused a 6-year-old neighbor.

The teacher says she sought Summers out to challenge Stowell's worthiness for a camp job and was rebuffed.

"He (Summers) asked me if there was any police record, and I said I didn't know," Carol Scarborough testified in the lawsuit. "He said, 'Well, if there isn't, I have to hire him.' " That's probably not true.

Because it's a private organization in an "at-will employment" state (where employers can fire workers without cause), the Scouts didn't have to hire anyone it didn't want to.

If Scarborough's warning worried them, Summers and camp director Richard Snow could have picked a different waterfront director without a questionable background.

But even though Snow told him he had heard the same thing, Summers testified, they hired Stowell anyway.

Even if Summers had decided to follow up on Carol Scarborough's warning, he might have hit a stone wall.

Asked two weeks ago to look up the 1988 case, Blackfoot Police Chief Dave Moore said there is no file on Stowell. James Jackson, who was a detective and then police chief at about that time, says he doesn't remember the case, but the department's triple cross-reference system for paper records should have turned up the detectives' notes and Stowell's written statement.

Chance 6: Grand Teton Council, 1995

In 1995, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of the LDS church, who also served on the Boy Scouts of America national board, asked the Grand Teton Council to investigate Brad Stowell.

The tip was first turned over to C. Hart Bullock, the Boy Scouts of America's representative for the entire northwestern United States.

Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Bullock was also the Boy Scouts of America's official liaison to the LDS church.

Bullock, testifying in the victim's lawsuit, kept notes of the call from the office of Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, who at one time had international responsibilities in the LDS church organization.

"Brad Stoll lives 210 Jefferson St. Blackfoot, Id," Bullock's note of the call reads. "Has fondled and sodomized a 6 yr old boy. Brad is working on waterfront at Little Lemhi Camp."

Bullock said he called Grand Teton Council executive director Brad Allen and asked him to check it out.

Allen called back within a couple of days, Bullock testified.

"He stated that he had checked with the boy's current LDS bishop, his past bishop, and that they had told him there was absolutely no indication that this young man was involved in any type of activity he was accused of ... this was an outstanding young man. And they could give him no reason that this boy could not be affiliated with Scouting."

Sometime before camp started in 1995, Allen also went to Stowell with the allegation.

"I said the incident had occurred," Stowell testified he told Allen.

" ... and he said, "How have you been since then?" And he kept asking me questions about if I had ever done that again and if I was still doing that and I told him, 'No.' "

Boy Scout membership is premised on high moral standards, and leaders are taught to drum out anyone who cannot uphold them.

Stowell was allowed to work at camp for another two years after Allen's investigation.

Chance 7: A boy pushes men to act

Just days after camp started in 1997, it was campers, sick of being preyed upon, who finally forced the camp staff to call police.

Adam Steed, a 14-year-old Stowell had befriended in order to molest, discovered other boys had been fondled and molested by Stowell. He gathered their stories and reported them to the camp director until Bonneville County Sheriff's deputies were summoned.

Detectives arrested Stowell in uniform at Camp Little Lemhi in view of the campers. Charged with molesting children, he pleaded guilty to two counts. He served five months in jail and was placed on probation for 15 years.

Grand Teton Council executive director Kim Hansen says paid Scout staff and volunteers took swift action in the Stowell case and that any claim they turned a blind eye is untrue.

Post Register Managing Editor Dean Miller can be reached at 542-6766.

By the book

Excerpts from Boy Scout manuals for leaders:

"Membership in the Boy Scouts of America is a privilege ... BSA reserves the right to refuse registration whenever there is a concern that the individual may not meet the high standards of membership ..."

"Child molesters are members of all economic, educational, and occupational strata of society, and are from all religious denominations. Do not ignore anyone because he or she is not the type."


Before the "Scouts' honor" series was printed, Grand Teton Council director Kim Hansen issued a response. It says, in part:

"The claim that the Council turned a 'blind eye' to Mr. Stowell's child abuse is simply not true. The Council took swift action to remove Mr. Stowell. The current council leadership promptly reported the abuse to the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office, after a youth staff member, who had participated in Scouting's Youth Protection training, reported his concern to the camp director."

The full text of the council's statement is contained in an ad scheduled to run in Tuesday's Post Register.

Now the story can be told

Eastern Idahoans knew in 1997 that Brad Stowell had been arrested at Camp Little Lemhi and had pleaded guilty to molesting Boy Scouts there.

What they don't know is what professional Scout leaders knew in the years leading up to that verdict and to the Boy Scouts' decision to pay two victims who sued for negligence.

That's because two of Idaho's most powerful law firms succeeded in having the files sealed.

The negligence lawsuits didn't appear in the courthouse public access computer until the Post Register noted in print that the ISTARS system was reporting the cases didn't exist, a situation legal experts have called highly unusual.

Court officials say one case disappeared from public view because of a computer glitch that has since been fixed. That case, including Stowell's admission that he molested 24 children, has since been unsealed.

The Boy Scouts are still fighting to keep the other case closed to "protect the names of the innocent victims," said Kim Hansen, Grand Teton Council executive director. But the Post Register, by longstanding policy, does not print the names of the sex-crime victims without their consent. Nor do any other reputable media outlets.

Judge W.H. Woodland, who signed the secret order that removed all references to that second case from the courthouse's public record, announced Thursday that he will soon rule on the Post Register's request to open the case.

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