By Nate Schweber (New York Times)
November 9, 2011
In 1998, the Penn State campus police and local law enforcement authorities investigated an allegation that Jerry Sandusky, then a prominent coach with the university's football team, had engaged in inappropriate and perhaps sexual conduct with a boy in the football facility's showers.
A lengthy police report was generated, state prosecutors said. The boy was interviewed. A second potential victim wpaas identified. Child welfare authorities were brought in. Sandusky confessed to showering with one or both of the children. The local district attorney was given material to consider prosecution.
In the end, no prosecution was undertaken. The child welfare agency did not take action. And, according to prosecutors, the commander of the university's campus police force told his detective, Ronald Schreffler, to close the case.
"Sandusky admitted showering naked with Victim 6, admitted to hugging Victim 6 while in the shower and admitted that it was wrong," said the report issued last weekend by the Pennsylvania attorney general. "Detective Schreffler advised Sandusky not to shower with any child again and Sandusky said that he would not."
Questions about that investigation abound: Who was interviewed? Who received the report? If the case was shut down, was Sandusky sanctioned in some way?
The New York Times has reached three of the principals involved in the investigation: the two men identified by prosecutors as the police officers who worked on the case, Schreffler and Ralph Ralston, and the investigator with the state welfare department, Gerald Lauro, who was charged with determining if a child had been harmed.
Schreffler — who appears to have been the lead detective, and who interviewed Sandusky — refused to comment when reached at his home in Bellefonte, Pa. He has retired from the campus police force and works at least part time for a security firm in Baltimore, according to his former wife.
"I've got nothing to say," Schreffler said Tuesday night.
Schreffler's current wife, Laurel, reached Wednesday, said, "I'm sorry, I'm not allowed to talk."
In an interview this week, Ralston, who said he worked for the local State College police force, insisted he played only a peripheral role in the investigation. He said his role was merely to make sure that campus police had access to the boy, who Rolston said lived in his jurisdiction.
"I can't even remember anything about it," Ralston said.
He said he never followed up with campus police or child welfare authorities to find out the conclusion of their investigations.
"I didn't think any more of it until I read the report over the weekend," he said of the attorney general's charges against Sandusky and other university officials. "There was stuff in there I never heard before."
Lauro, the investigator for the state welfare department in 1998, said he was aware during the investigation that Sandusky was a prominent local figure, but that it did not affect his work.
"Was he a high-profile person?" Lauro asked. "I'd have to be stupid to tell you no. Everybody knew him."
At the time of his investigation, Lauro said, all the child said was that Sandusky showered with him, and it made him uncomfortable. Lauro said he didn't feel that was enough to substantiate a sexual-abuse complaint.
Lauro suggested that the child, now grown, had told the grand jury convened by the attorney general a much more explicit account.
Lauro said he has felt worse and worse as the scandal has unfolded, particularly when he read quotations in a newspaper from a victim's mother blaming him and other officials for not doing more to stop Sandusky.
"I feel bad that there was not more information so I could have done something," he said. "I feel bad that the mom thinks I should've done more. I just didn't have all the information back then."
In 1998, though, Lauro said his judgment was that the allegation fell under the category of what he termed "boundary issues," not sexual assault.
"It was definitely boundary issues, and I worked with boundary issues a lot," Lauro said. "But if I believed it was more than boundary issues, I would've gone to the mat."
Lauro said he met Schreffler, the campus detective, twice during the investigation. Lauro said he was surprised to learn that the detective would not talk about the investigation of 1998.
"Wow," he said. "That's really saying something."