Port Lavaca molestation case kept quiet in 1968
Oct. 20, 2012 at 5:20 a.m.
Updated Oct. 21, 2012 at 5:21 a.m.
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Most in the Port Lavaca community never knew a 22-year-old assistant scoutmaster sexually abused troop members.
"Nobody talked about it," Port Lavaca Mayor Jack Whitlow recalled of the 1968 case. "It shakes everybody up. People change things, but most people just want to forget about it."
Back then, the police department wasn't known for publicizing its cases, and Boy Scouts of America kept those kinds of records sealed in an "Ineligible Volunteer Files" - that is, until now.
Former Police Chief T.B. Hargrove Jr. investigated the incident, which occurred during a Troop 248 camping trip and led to a five-charge indictment, including sodomy.
"I was on the case, but the details are pretty faint," Hargrove, now 85, said. He was 41 at the time of the incident.
Glen Ray Roth, a 1964 Eagle Scout, pleaded guilty to four counts of fondling a child, according to his arrest record, and received 10 years of probation for a fifth charge, which was changed to indecent exposure.
As the "Ineligible Volunteer Files" is reviewed nationally, critics say locals helped cover up thousands of sexual abuse incidents and Boy Scouts officials protected the accused in the secret files.
Norman Smith, 59, of Port Lavaca, was a Star Scout in Troop 248, but left before Roth joined.
"It's just shocking - it's unbelievable," said Smith, who was 15 in 1968. "I've heard of things like this, but I would never imagine it happening here."
He said scouting left a positive impact on his life. He remembers the merit badge jamborees and campouts at Camp Karankawa in Corpus Christi. He said the troop took lots of camping trips.
"I can't imagine something like that happening and it not be a major, major topic of conversation in this town," Smith said.
Hargrove said the police department had no interference from Boy Scouts of America or from residents asking them to protect the organization's reputation from the case.
"We talked to the boys and took statements and presented it to the district attorney," Hargrove said. "They took it to the grand jury and that was it. We were strictly investigators."
Hargrove could not recall any difference in the community after Roth's indictment.
"We just figured we did our job," he said. "If he went to prison, we did our job."
Roth served a five-year sentence in Huntsville before being arrested in 1979 in Victoria County on an unrelated charge.
Nearby, former Troop 243 Scoutmaster Nic Harrison, 67, of Port Lavaca, struggled to remember the troop that Roth helped lead.
Harrison was in the Navy during the incident, but said the troop "went defunct a long time ago."
He wondered whether that had anything to do with Roth's charges. There is no record of what became of Roth's victims.
Russell Cain, a 65-year-old Port Lavaca Realtor who grew up with the Point Comfort troop, couldn't recall Roth, but sympathized with the victims.
"I believe in scouting," Cain said. "Anybody that has (been the victim of) sexual abuse is affected emotionally. They feel like they're guilty of something and they're really not. It makes people feel unworthy."
A Boy Scouts letter dated Feb. 22, 1968, two weeks after the crimes occurred, sent to "Scotty" said, "This man is no longer affiliated with T-248 because of noncompliance with XTroop Camping Policy ... (I) believe, if what I have heard is true, steps should be taken to make sure he is never again allowed to affiliate with B.S. of A."
The letter's signature was redacted from the files.
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