Sandusky’s wife tells of time he gave others

Posted: June 20, 2012

BELLEFONTE, Pa. - She's the mother of six, grandmother to 12, a caring neighbor and churchgoer - and, perhaps, the wife of a monster.

Dorothy "Dottie" Sandusky, 69, playfully nicknamed "Sarge" for her rules-first demeanor, has become an object of fascination, the longtime, steadfast spouse of one of the most reviled men in America.

On Tuesday, she took the stand with a quick step, smartly dressed in a lime-green shirt, her frosted blond-gray hair carefully coiffed, to speak up for her husband, Jerry, who is on trial on charges that he molested 12 boys during a 15-year period.

He never took his eyes off her as she spoke, his elbow on the defense table and his chin in his hand.

On the stand, Dorothy Sandusky described how she raised five children and now lovingly helps care for 12 grandchildren, with a 13th on the way. Her house in State College, home to Pennsylvania State University, where her husband coached football, was always full of children, her own and others. Some stayed overnight. A number of the eight accusers stayed at the home over the years, she said, but she never saw her husband inappropriately touch any of the boys, who are now men.

Sandusky never got to say what she thought of the damning victim testimony against her husband, the man to whom she has been married nearly 46 years, because she was never asked. But when prosecutor Joseph McGettigan III stepped forward for cross-examination, she fixed him with a stare that made clear where her loyalties lie.

Others have described her husband as being, before the charges were lodged, an inspiration, a motivator, a religious man, a family man, a man who gave of himself to friends and to children.

His wife did not reach for those superlatives. Instead, she spoke directly and calmly, not about who he was, but about what he did:

Opened his home. Opened his heart. During impossibly busy Penn State football seasons, he made sure he got home to have dinner with the family, then continued working upstairs. He took young people to football games, and after he retired from Penn State in 1999, he devoted even more time to his Second Mile charity for troubled youths - where prosecutors say he met some of his victims.

She said her husband tried to help children. He tried to help the boys about whom, it seemed, she could say much but, instead, said little, describing one as having "his problems . . . very conniving."

The Sanduskys live at the end of a cul-de-sac, in a tan home with a two-car garage and manicured lawn. No one answered the door Tuesday. But when Dottie Sandusky comes or goes, she drives past signs posted in her neighbors' yards in support of RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

"Support victims of sexual abuse," the signs say. "Get help. Get involved. Donate."

Some people on the street had only kind words for her: A caring person. She made cookies and candy for the neighborhood children at Easter, even as the allegations swirled around her family. She regularly attended a Bible study group at her church, St. Paul's Methodist Church in State College.

"She's been a good neighbor as long as she's been here," one man said.

When the Sandusky children were young, she made sure they went to Sunday school, said longtime neighbor Clarence Trotter, 95, who now lives elsewhere but was back on Tuesday to tend a neighbor's garden.

Other neighbors say they are increasingly unsure of what she may have heard or known, particularly given the statements of several alleged victims that she was in the house when abuse occurred.

"When you hear this testimony, it's just so extreme. There was so much pain," one neighbor said, declining to give his name. "I feel as a neighbor I want to be there for her, but I don't want to be there for her if she knew."

Her long-awaited testimony ultimately proved short. Sandusky was on and off the stand in 40 minutes.

Yes, she told the court, she was aware of a 1998 investigation about whether her husband had harmed a boy. They got a letter saying the allegation was unfounded, she said. Yes, boys involved in her husband's charity stayed in her home over the years, some of them sleeping in the basement.

"He put the kids to bed?" the prosecutor pressed.

"He would go down," Sandusky's wife answered, "and tell them goodnight."


Contact staff writer Jeff Gammage at 215-854-2415, jgammage@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @JeffGammage.

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