Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:20 PM
PDF: Scout papers
OGDEN — Dear fathers of the world: Love your children.
If you do, they have much better chances of becoming good, productive people.
Such messages are among those shared by a convicted child molester.
Lee Dalton, 72, of Ogden, was convicted after he confessed to molesting his latest victim in June 1997 in Box Elder County Utah. He has admitted to molesting 43 boys in other states in previous years.
Dalton agreed to talk to the Standard-Examiner with the hope, he said, of benefitting at least one life, perhaps his own.
When asked what went wrong in his life, Dalton spoke of the devastation he felt because of a mean, alcoholic World War II veteran father who he said never told him anything he did was good enough.
He spoke of all kids turning somewhere to cope.
Dalton said his coping mechanism from a very young age was sexual stimulation.
“My father was an addict,” he said. “I was an addict of a different kind.”
The hard facts
More than a decade ago, Dalton served 3 1/2 years in the state prison at Gunnison for molesting a boy. The statute of limitations has run out on the dozens of other crimes against boys he admits to carrying out starting in the mid-1960s.
He was allowed decades of exposure to young boys both as a Scout leader and as a teacher in the Ohio towns of Hiram and Burton.
Then when he was released as a Scout leader in Ohio, he moved on to numerous communities throughout the country, in Montana, Wyoming, California, Maryland, New Mexico and Arizona.
When he finally turned himself in, he was a teacher in Box Elder County. His last victim was not a student there.
Dalton’s 30 years of depradations came to light last month when the Cleveland Scene magazine published an extensive story outlining his molestations associated with his roles in the Boy Scouts of America. The publication drew upon databases made available by the Los Angeles Times at spreadsheets.latimes.com/boyscouts-cases/.
The documents feature files the Boy Scouts kept in an effort to track leaders who committed sexual crimes against Scouts. They documented the dismissal of leaders who were found to have committed such acts. They also documented inaction by the organization when leaders, including Dalton, moved to different areas of the country and were re-admitted as leaders.
The Standard-Examiner this week obtained Boy Scout files on Dalton. One document is a memo from the Boy Scouts Division of Personnel dated Sept. 14, 1966, saying Dalton had been “teaching and assisting boys in group masturbation” in Hiram, Ohio, when he was 26.
A letter from the same time said the information in the file would help the Boy Scouts “identify Mr. Dalton should he ever again attempt to register in the Scouting program.”
Documents from Oct. 26, 1983, said that Dalton would be allowed to register as a Scout leader in the Woodruff, Utah, area but he would be put on probation for two years.
In another memo from 1983, a Boy Scouts official in Utah expressed a belief that Dalton’s earlier incident was “behind him.” The memo outlined how Dalton would be allowed to register as a leader at that time but on a probationary basis.
Missing are documents addressing the issue from when he was allowed to be a Boy Scout leader when he lived in Fredonia, Ariz., in 1978. Dalton said he did go on to molest other Boy Scouts after Ohio but that none were in Utah. He said his victim in the 1997 case was the only Utah resident.
Dalton said that when he was asked in 1987 by his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bishop to lead a Scout troop in Woodruff, he and the bishop put safeguards in place to assure that he was never alone with a Scout.
“We put safeguards in place long before the Boy Scouts were putting safeguards in place,” he said.
Boy Scouts’ response
Asked about Dalton’s history, Deron Smith, director of public relations for the Boy Scouts of America, said: “There have been instances where people misused their positions in Scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong.
“Where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families.”
Smith said that while it is difficult to understand or explain individuals’ actions from decades ago, Scouting now is a leader among youth-serving organizations in preventing child abuse.
The BSA requires background checks; administers comprehensive training programs for volunteers, staff, youth, and parents; and mandates reporting of even suspected abuse, he said.
Amy Russell, deputy director of the National Child Protection Training Center, gives credit to the Boy Scouts for turning around its child protection record.
“They’ve instituted a great deal of training,” she said. “They’ve instituted no one-on-one interactions with kids. They have completely open programs, which doesn’t allow secrets anymore, and they tell everybody who comes in contact with kids that youth protection begins with you.”
On the group’s national website, the following assurances are offered to parents:
“The adult application requests background information that should be checked by the unit committee or the chartered organization before accepting an applicant for unit leadership,” it says.
“While no current screening techniques exist that can identify every potential child molester, we can reduce the risk of accepting a child molester by learning all we can about an applicant for a leadership position — his or her experience with children, why he or she wants to be a Scout leader, and what discipline techniques he or she would use.”
The Boy Scouts organization also has received much publicity as of late about a vote to allow gay boys to participate in Scouting activities.
While the organization does not currently allow openly gay leaders, some believe that with the vote to allow gay members, the stage is set to allow gay leaders also.
Dalton said such a move would be a mistake.
“In my lifetime, I’ve seen a decay of basic morality,” Dalton said. “There are things that are not OK.”
He said he is discouraged to see churches caving in to a very loud lobby regarding the acceptance of homosexuality.
“Because these perverted behaviors are so hard to understand and change, it is easier and certainly more popular to try to make some of them socially acceptable,” he said.
And he said it would be a mistake to allow homosexual leaders in the Boy Scouts.
“Kids learn from example,” he said. “It would be dangerous forcing Scouts to take homosexual leaders.”
He said the acceptance of pornography also will one day be seen as a downfall of society and he is especially concerned with how easily acceptable pornography is to young people today.
Dalton said none of these statements are excuses for his own behavior. He said he hates what he did as much as anyone else.
He said people can love the person but not accept their actions.
A molester’s brain
Dalton said it is impossible to understand how a molester’s brain is wired.
He said he always felt isolated from other people — even his own children — and that the behavior started when he was young.
“It seemed like looking for acceptance somewhere,” he said. “I found it in a very twisted way.”
He said memories of traveling from place to place as a “military brat” and the sexual games that children played on the various military bases kept coming back to him.
“The compulsion overrides everything else,” he said. “I don’t understand it myself, so how could I expect anybody else to? . . . When you are committing the act, you’re hating yourself because there is such a contradiction there.
“Until someone has been locked into a compulsive behavior, you don’t understand how you can do it,” he said. “Some compulsions just take over. Something has to happen to break it. . . . Like an alcoholic has to hit bottom.”
Turning to prison
Dalton’s crimes against his last victim became public when he turned himself in to Box Elder County authorities in March 1997. Then a Tremonton resident and a school teacher, he pleaded guilty and waived his right to trial.
Dalton said he turned himself in and pressed for a quick prison sentence after he grew to recognize the effects of his behavior on his last victim. The only one from Utah, Dalton said he molested his last victim eight or nine times over several years.
He said he knew what actions needed to be taken, both for his victim and for himself.
But as for what action is right for his other victims, Dalton offers no answer. He recognizes criticism he’s received for a lack of remorse for them.“At some point, you have to let the past go and hang on and build toward the future and I thought that is what I had done,” he said.
Healing in prison
Dalton said he felt the most acceptance of his life while he was in prison.
“There, I felt like I was an acceptable human being,” he said.
Dalton cried when he told of a healing moment he experienced in prison.
“Whatever happened, it was not up here,” he said pointing to his head. “It was down here,” he said, pointing to his heart.
He said he surrendered to a higher power when a female guard sent him to a choir practice for LDS members in the prison.
“I felt like I was going home,” he said.
Dalton said for the rest of his stay in prison, he took part in church services and began to feel as if he were healing.
He had been a convert to the church for several years but had fallen away from activity.
Difficulty on the outside
Dalton said life after prison was difficult. His family relationships had been torn apart. His wife had divorced him while he began his sentence.He had a difficult time getting and keeping a job and there were financial struggles when we became ill.
And Dalton said he recognizes that nothing he will ever do could take back the past.
He said he found difficulty in turning to church members and leaders for further help.
The last time he remembers being an active member of the church, he said the parents of a family with young children insisted on sitting next to him during the services.
He said the parents would tell their children out loud during the services how evil he was.
Finally, he said, one Sunday, a young boy in the family stood up, pointed at Dalton and in a loud voice said “You’re a bad man.”
That was the last time Dalton attended any kind of church services. He said he feels as if he has no place in church anymore.
But he’d be willing to try again if given the right circumstances.
Dalton said he has found a new life and new friends.
There’s even a woman who has let her affection be known to him. But Dalton admits that the idea of being close to someone else scares him.
“To this day, I have a very hard time getting close to anybody,” he said. “I’m afraid they are going to disappear.”
A registered sex offender, Dalton said he warns those in his circles about his history.
He was elected to his condo homeowners association leadership for eight years and he said he stood up on a number of occasions to announce to the other members that he was a registered sex offender.
When he’s near the pool in his complex, Dalton said, he leaves when young children arrive to swim.
And he said he’s sure he will lose some associations as a result of this story in the newspaper.
“When you talk to an alcoholic when he’s sober, he will say that he absolutely hates what he is doing,” Dalton said. “That’s probably true with any kind of compulsion. . . . It’s like a gigantic tangle of rope. Where do you start to untangle it and how?”
But now, Dalton said, he has remorse for what he has done to his latest victim.
“Now I have to . . . say, ‘I’m responsible for the struggles he’s had.’”
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