Ask the experts

No consensus on the risks of hiring a known child molester

Conflicting statistics

• 3.5 percent of child molesters were re-arrested for a new sex crime within three years of release. That's a lower arrest rate than for rapists or drug addicts.

• 40 percent of child molesters will be arrested for a new crime within three years of release.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

Experts disagree on the risk Brad Stowell posed when the Boy Scouts hired the confessed molester to work as the waterfront director at Camp Little Lemhi near Swan Valley.

Some say the Scouts practically guaranteed children would get hurt when they hired Brad Stowell to work at the Swan Valley camp.

Others say the Scouts needn't have worried.

It all depends on whom you ask. Experts cite different statistics and studies to back their positions, and few can even agree on a definition of a pedophile or what molestation is.

On one side are those like Polly Franks, board member for the National Coalition of Victims in Action.

To her, hiring Stowell was like throwing a rattlesnake in a baby's crib.

"The baby might not get bitten, but who in their right mind would do it?" she said.

After all, Stowell had confessed to a 1988 incident with a 6-year-old boy to his mom, his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bishop and at least one Scout official.

Franks and others, many of them professors, cite statistics showing that among criminals, pedophiles are most likely to strike more than once and can't be cured of their compulsion.

On the other side are experts like Richard Moran, a professor of sociology and criminology at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.

He and others said the Scouts, even those who knew about Stowell's past, possibly made a good decision to hire him because pedophiles, like other criminals, deserve a second chance.

The courts considered Stowell safe, so the Scouts had every reason to think he was, too, these experts said. The judge -- who has access to more information than the public does -- was in a position to know what's best, and he wouldn't have let Stowell out of prison if the molester was going to strike again, they said.

Moran cited different statistics, which show pedophiles have one of the lowest re-offense rates and usually do change.

"The mass hysteria and media hype aren't true," Moran said.

A lot of the confusion stems from conflicting definitions.

Experts disagree on what a pedophile is and what constitutes an offense.

On the Net

Find out if a sex offender lives near you. Search by ZIP code, county or by name and date of birth on the Idaho sex-offender registry Web site:

Is a person who preys on teens worse than one who preys on kindergartners? What's the difference between touching a child and making a child do the touching?

The data collected often comes from what pedophiles report, and it's hard to tell how reliable a source an offender is because pedophiles specialize in deception and manipulation.

Some experts say pedophilia is an addiction. Others theorize it is a sexual orientation distinct from straight, gay and bisexual.

The experts interviewed for this article who treat pedophiles usually said the offenders can change; those who prosecute them said they can't; those who do both say a simple answer is hard to support.

Experts say Stowell's risk of re-offending depends on the type of molester he might be.

Serial molesters, who are attracted to children and seek them out, can't help themselves and often think what they're doing is OK. Serial molesters either will try to do it again, have to resist a powerful urge, can't be changed, or will take longer to grow out of it, depending on whom you ask.

Situational pedophiles typically strike when they're intoxicated and have the opportunity. They probably won't strike again after treatment, said Keith Durkin, a criminology and sociology professor at Ohio Northern University.

He said these criminals are different from the more predatory serial molesters.


"If someone confesses to molesting 24 kids, you should multiply by three" to get the real number of victims, Durkin said.

His estimate reflects the findings of a study several authorities pointed to. It showed that once caught and convicted, the average pedophile confessed to having more than 100 victims. Efforts to get a copy and determine the veracity of this study were unsuccessful.

Experts said they couldn't tell what kind of molester Stowell was without talking to him and researching his background. Stowell molested dozens of kids, some several times. But he says the past eight years of treatment and the scrutiny of his probation officers have changed him.

The Post Register's decision to spotlight his case is unfair, he said.

"I was a molester," he said. "I'm not anymore."

He can't undo the past or make up to the children he hurt, but he's doing his best, he said. He has graduated from college, is married and lives in Idaho Falls, where his address is public record on the state's sex offender Web site.

He hasn't re-offended, and the terms of his probation, he said, are tough. He can't legally touch people younger than 21 or be in the same room as a minor without supervision, and he has to take a polygraph test every six months.

He's been open with family and neighbors about his past, according to a 1998 sentencing memorandum, and he acknowledges he's needed help. Long-term incarceration, the memorandum argues, wouldn't help him get better.

As waterfront director at Camp Little Lemhi, Stowell spent lots of time supervising children learning to swim. After several promotions, he was the leader of junior counselors, most in their early teens. As a longtime staffer, he had the run of the camp and used it to enter boys' cabins and tents at night, where he molested several boys.

When he was caught the first time, Stowell was sent to the LDS Church Social Services counseling center in Pocatello for six months. Carl White, who worked there at the time and is now the manager of the center, said he cannot discuss Stowell's case.

But he said the treatment of sex offenders is highly specialized and that if the courts sent someone like Stowell to Social Services today, he would be evaluated and then referred to an agency that does that work.

Back in 1988, the treatment Stowell got didn't work.

He continued to sexually assault young boys long after that counseling was done, including at least one while he was serving his LDS mission in Anchorage, Alaska.

When Stowell applied to law school after his conviction, he said he was molested as a 12-year-old, and "what I had been through planted some very unhealthy thoughts and desires in my mind." In a statement of his criminal history on the law school application, Stowell says he inappropriately "touched two staff members who were boys under the age of 16."

A judge denied Stowell's motion to end probation early so he could go to law school at Santa Clara University in California.

Several advocates encouraged parents to find out whether any sex offenders live near them and said all claims of pedophilia should be investigated. Others said parents shouldn't worry. Everyone agrees most sex abuse victims never tell anyone and people should report abuse to police even if it happened a decade ago.

The Boy Scouts seem to acknowledge this in their manual "Procedures for Maintaining Standards for Membership":

"Any allegation (of child abuse) that appears to have substance, even if anonymous, necessitates the immediate removal of the abuser from Scouting."

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


1988 -- 2005

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.


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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