Mother to Victim 4: 'You got him'

Jerry Sandusky in his booking photo, released early Saturday by the Centre County Correctional Facility.
Jerry Sandusky in his booking photo, released early Saturday by the Centre County Correctional Facility.

Parents tell of their son's anger, mistrust, and courage in testifying.

Posted: June 25, 2012

They watched their son go from a normal preadolescent with academic struggles to a bitter, angry teenager who tested their authority and patience.

Until former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was indicted in November on dozens of counts of child sexual abuse, they didn't know why.

The young man's mother, a 50-year-old supervisor for a farming supply company, still remembers her son's haunting response when she asked him late last year about the four years he spent as one of Sandusky's favorites.

He had accompanied the coach to football games and on out-of-town trips - things that before November's indictment she had thought were nothing but positive influences in her son's life.

"Yeah, Mom. I'm a part of it," he told her of his unwilling role in the abuse case.

Now a 28-year-old retail store worker, her son was the first to testify against Sandusky during the two-week trial, which ended Friday with Sandusky's conviction on 45 of 48 charges, including all of those in the young man's case.

After the verdict came down, the young man's mother texted him, "You got him." He replied, "You're damned right."

The Inquirer is withholding the names of the witness, known as Victim 4, and his mother and stepfather, under its policy of protecting sexual assault victims.

The couple are happy that Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life in jail, but they wonder whether their son will ever be able to overcome the scars left by a manipulative child molester who carefully and progressively groomed his victims with gifts, access to the prestigious world of Penn State football, and even threats.

"I don't know that he is ever going to have what it takes to be successful in terms of having that trust level with anybody," said his stepfather, 44, a chief operating officer for a farming supply company in a western U.S. state, where the couple have since relocated. "There's no trust."

He said he won't allow anyone to babysit his own son, now 5. He married Victim 4's mother when her son was 4 years old.

As the jury deliberated over two days and well into the night of the second, their son became tense and anxious, the couple said.

"It had him worried," his mother said. "Why was it taking so long?"

They had offered to come and support him in court, but he told them he wanted to do it alone, she said.

Calm and collected in a white shirt and tie, her son took the stand and told how he met Sandusky in 1996, when he was living with his grandmother in Snow Shoe, a small town near Penn State, and attending Mountaintop Area Elementary School there.

He said he lived with his grandmother because his mother had remarried and he didn't get along with his stepfather, though his stepfather said he eventually adopted the boy.

A guidance counselor referred him to a soccer camp run by the Second Mile, Sandusky's charity, because he was getting into some trouble, he testified.

His stepfather, however, said that the only trouble he had at the time was poor grades and that the school responded by putting him in a class for gifted students, figuring he needed to be challenged. It was the teacher of that gifted class, the man said, who knew Sandusky and made the connection.

The young man testified that he started playing basketball with Sandusky and spent a week on Penn State's campus. They began showering together, which led to soap battles, naked bear hugs, wrestling, fondling, and, finally, oral sex.

But at the same time, the boy - then a self-described shrimpy, scrawny kid who had never played football before - was able to attend Penn State football games with Sandusky and even be on the sidelines.

His mother and stepfather saw Sandusky when their son played youth baseball games and the coach stopped by. They never suspected Sandusky was a monster in disguise.

"You wouldn't think of anything like that," the victim's mother said. "You'd think he was there to help."

His stepfather recalled frequent updates from Sandusky on their son's progress: "Jerry would call two or three times a week to tell us, 'This is where he is with his grades.' "

Their son was extremely excited to be around Sandusky at first, they said.

Sandusky had even promised the boy a walk-on spot on the Penn State team, he testified. He went with the coach on out-of-town trips to the Alamo and Outback Bowls.

During a shower on the Outback Bowl trip, he recalled Sandusky caressing him and pushing down on his shoulders, which he interpreted as a request for oral sex. He resisted, and Sandusky threatened: "You don't want to go back to Snow Shoe, do you?" he testified.

Sandusky sent him what he described as "creepy love letters" and made him feel like he was Sandusky's girlfriend, he testified.

In one letter, Sandusky wrote: "I know that I have made my share of mistakes. I hope that I will be able to say that I cared. There has been love in my heart."

Victim 4 didn't tell anyone about the abuse because he didn't want to lose all the special attention and perks, he testified.

"Jerry was like a father figure to me," he testified.

But he broke off ties in 2000 when he got a girlfriend and was "getting sick over what was happening to me."

What his parents saw was all the anger. Then he began to resist spending time with Sandusky, which the couple didn't understand. When they found him with pills, they took him to a center for evaluation by a psychologist, his stepfather recalled. But the abuse didn't come out then, just the anger.

"He has had a bit of a tough life," his mother said. "I hope he can start getting better now."

The man has since retained an attorney, who did not return calls seeking comment for this article. The victim did not seek out investigators to report the abuse.

Investigators found him through a photo in Sports Illustrated that accompanied a story on Sandusky's charitable work. They interviewed him, learned of the abuse, and had him testify.

"I've spent so many years burying this in the back of my head forever," he told the jury.

What he has found hardest, his parents said, is that other boys who came after him were victimized, too.

In testimony, he said: "I thought I was the only one, and I thought I was OK with that. But then I heard that this happened over and over again. I feel responsible for what happened to the other ones."

His parents, however, said they feel nothing but pride that their son had the courage to confront his abuser in court.

"I don't think too many people could have done that," his mother said.


Contact Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693, ssnyder@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ssnyderinq.

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