Seventh victim tells of Conlin abuse

Posted: December 23, 2011

Yet another woman has come forward to say that Hall of Fame baseball writer and former Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin sexually abused her when she was a child.

The woman said Conlin assaulted her at the beach in Margate, N.J., when she was 11 years old in the 1960s, fully a decade before he is accused of assaulting six other victims who have given accounts this week. She said she was speaking out now because reading the stories of others who say Conlin molested them gave her courage.

"When I read it, I started to cry," said the woman, now 59 and a mother of two who lives in Chester County. "I just felt overwhelmed. The fact that I wasn't the only one made me feel stronger."

Conlin, 77, retired from the Daily News on Tuesday just hours before The Inquirer posted a story about allegations that he had abused three women and a man decades ago when they were children. Two other women came forward on Wednesday and said that Conlin had assaulted them, too, also in the 1970s when they were children living in the Whitman Square section of Washington Township, Gloucester County.

Among his accusers are his niece, Kelley Blanchet, who said he assaulted her in her Margate home when she was 7 years old. The other accusers were neighbors and childhood friends of Conlin's children. They say he molested them in his Whitman Square home. One, Linda Stella, told the Philadelphia Daily News Wednesday that Conlin repeatedly assaulted her when she was a child.

The woman who spoke out Friday said Conlin, a family friend, assaulted her twice while he was visiting the Jersey Shore, where her family had a home.

The first time he touched her, she said, was on a surfboard as he paddled out to sea with her in tow. She was lying prone on the front of the surfboard and he was behind her when he reached his hand inside her bathing suit.

"I was like totally freaked out," said the woman, who asked not to be identified. "I said, 'Don't touch me.' " The Inquirer does not identify people who say they are victims of sex crimes unless they give permission to use their names.

Another time, she said, she was showering in her bathing suit after a day at the beach when Conlin reached in and touched her genitals and put a finger inside of her.

"I was just horrified," the woman recalled. She said the assaults ended after she told a lifeguard what had happened and he promised to make it stop.

Conlin could not be reached for comment Friday. Through his lawyer, George Bochetto, he has declined to address the allegations but has vowed to clear his name.

"This has obviously been crushing to Mr. Conlin," Bochetto said Friday. "Frankly, I am now more concerned about Mr. Conlin and his ability to carry on. I hope for Mr. Conlin's sake that at some point we will have the opportunity to understand and investigate all of the facts."

Because the assaults happened decades ago, no criminal charges could be filed. Blanchet, Karen Healey, her brother Kevin Healey, and another woman gave videotaped statements about the assaults to Gloucester County prosecutors last year. After what he described as "an exhaustive investigation," Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton said no charges could be brought because the statute of limitations on any crimes had expired.

New Jersey's current law has no statute of limitations on sex crimes, but the law, enacted in 1996, was not retroactive. Assaults that took place in the 1960s and 1970s are beyond the statute of limitations.

Earlier this week, Dalton put out a statement encouraging victims of sex crimes to report the assaults to law enforcement.

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Contact staff writer Nancy Phillips at 215-854-2254, nphillips@phillynews.com, or @PhillipsNancy on Twitter.

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