Rick Turley was 18 when he learned that Scouting offered a unique opportunity to meet boys.
He would show up in a uniform with a sash full of merit badges, charm parents with claims of being a "top" leader and offer to take their preteen boys out for a swim or drive. Then, often after plying them with alcohol, he would fondle or rape them — once going so far as to kidnap a boy in a stolen plane.
Over nearly two decades, Turley molested at least 15 children in Southern California and British Columbia, most of whom he met through American and Canadian Scouting, a Los Angeles Times and Canadian Broadcasting Corp. investigation has found.
Scouting officials on both sides of the border not only failed to stop him, but sometimes helped cover his tracks, according to confidential Scouting records, court files and interviews with victims, families and Scout leaders.
At one point in 1979, Boy Scouts of America officials decided not to call police after Turley admitted molesting three Orange County boys, the organization's records show.
"We were following exactly the national recommendations of the Boy Scouts of America and its board who set up the rules," said A. Buford Hill Jr., a former Orange County Scouting executive, in a recent interview. "You do not want to broadcast to the entire population that these things happen. You take care of it quietly and make sure it never happens again."
But it did.
Turley returned to British Columbia, signed on with Scouts Canada, which is separate from its U.S. counterpart, and continued his abuses for at least a decade.
Turley, now 58, is still surprised at how often he got away with it.
"It was easy," he said in an interview this month at the Alberta truck-stop motel where he now works.
Turley is one of more than 5,000 suspected child molesters named in confidential files kept by the Boy Scouts of America. The documents — called the "perversion files" by the organization — include unsubstantiated tips as well as admissions of guilt.
Those records have surfaced in recent years in lawsuits by former Scouts, accusing the group of failing to exclude known pedophiles, detect abuses or turn in offenders to the police.
The Oregon Supreme Court is now weighing a request by newspapers, a wire service and broadcasters to open about 1,200 more files in the wake of a nearly $20-million judgment in a Portland sex abuse case last year.
The Scouts' handling of sex-abuse allegations echoes that of the Catholic Church in the face of accusations against its priests, some attorneys say.
"It's the same institutional reaction: scandal prevention," said Seattle attorney Timothy Kosnoff, who has filed seven suits in the last year by former Scouts but was not involved in the Oregon case.
Current Boy Scouts of America officials declined to be interviewed and would not say how many files exist or what is in them. Their lawyers have said the records are confidential, in part to protect victims and because some of the files are based on unproven allegations.
"The BSA has continued to enhance its youth protection efforts as society has increased its understanding of the dangers children face," the Scouts said in a statement.
In the 1980s, the Boy Scouts began requiring that at least two adults be present for troop activities. The following decade, it mandated criminal background checks for staffers, a requirement that was expanded to the organization's nearly 1 million volunteers in 2008. Last year, it required child abuse prevention training as well. All suspicions of sexual misconduct must now be reported to police.
Those measures would likely have stopped Turley had they been in place decades ago. Instead, the Scouts' national policy had long recommended keeping abuse and other misconduct a secret.
Turley said one call to police by Scouting officials in 1979 "probably would have put a stop to me years and years and years ago." Instead, he "went back to the Scouts again and again as a leader and offended against the boys," said Turley, who said he has learned to control his impulses.
"That person who was Rick Turley was a monster," he said.
More here and at the link above, where Turley's kidnapping of an 11-year old boy in California is discussed:
Even after stealing a plane, kidnapping a child, and molesting several children, Turley was allowed to be a scout leader and continued to rape children.