Dottie Sandusky lashes out at youngest son in letter

Dorothy "Dottie" Sandusky (right) has not spoken with her youngest son since he said he, too, was abused.
Dorothy "Dottie" Sandusky (right) has not spoken with her youngest son since he said he, too, was abused. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 12, 2012

Jerry Sandusky's wife, in a letter to the judge deciding her husband's fate, stood by him as a "man of very high morals" and trashed their adopted son for saying that he, too, had been sexually abused by his father.

"People need to know what kind of person he is," Dorothy "Dottie" Sandusky wrote of son Matt, 33, in the document, sent two weeks after her husband's conviction and obtained by The Inquirer this week.

The letter, dated July 9, characterizes Matt Sandusky as a mentally ill liar and thief and asks Judge John M. Cleland to discount her youngest son's allegations in determining a sentence for her husband.

It was one of several similar missives Cleland considered before sentencing the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Tuesday to 30 to 60 years in prison for the serial sexual abuse of 10 adolescent boys.

And although jurors did not learn of Matt Sandusky's accusations until after delivering their verdict in June and his alleged abuse played no part in his father's sentencing this week, the letter his mother penned laid bare the painful family divisions.

"They said the same kinds of things about all of Jerry Sandusky's victims," said lawyer Matt Casey, one of a team of lawyers that represents Matt Sandusky and several other accusers of the former coach. "It's part and parcel of this whole tragedy that these young men have been continually victimized by their abuser."

Dorothy and Jerry Sandusky have not spoken to their youngest son since he publicly accused his father of sexual abuse in the middle of his trial, the former coach's lawyers said this week. Matt Sandusky did not attend the sentencing Tuesday but his lawyers said he still planned to sue his adoptive father in civil court.

Calls to Matt and Dorothy Sandusky were not returned Wednesday.

In her letter, Dorothy Sandusky described her son's shift from onetime ally to his father's accuser as just one in a decades-long series of betrayals from the man she and her husband welcomed into their home as a troubled 17-year-old.

"We have forgiven him many times for all he has done to our family, thinking that he was changing his life," she wrote. "But he would always go back to stealing and lies."

Before his father's trial, Matt, one of the Sandusky family's six adopted children, had denied on several occasions that he had ever been abused, and he originally agreed to testify for the former coach's defense.

But hours after jurors began deliberating Jerry Sandusky's fate, the 33-year-old's lawyers dropped a bombshell, publicly disclosing that their client had turned state's witness and was now alleging that he had been abused.

Though he never testified at trial, Matt Sandusky explained his motivation in a taped interview with investigators leaked to the media in June.

"I came forward for different reasons," he said. "I mean, for my family, so that they can really have closure and see what the truth actually is."

But which family he was referring to remains unclear.

Matt Sandusky was born Matt Heichel, and he met Jerry Sandusky as an 8-year-old foster child with a troubled home life. He moved into the former coach's house nine years later and was formally adopted at 18. He has not yet stated publicly when his adoptive father allegedly began to sexually abuse him. Matt Sandusky's biological mother, Debra Long, who still lives not far from the Centre County courthouse, suspected something wasn't right early on in the relationship.

Jerry Sandusky took an interest in her son the same way many of the former coach's other accusers later described. They met at the Second Mile, the charity from which the elder Sandusky culled all of his victims. They attended football games and worked out together. "I would sit back and watch when Jerry would show up, how excited Matt was," Long told ABC News in an interview last November. "And then, as time went on, I would watch the same kid hide behind the bedroom door and say, 'Mom, tell him I'm not home.' "

Matt moved in with the Sanduskys after burning down a barn in 1995. But his trouble seemed to grow worse there, according to his interview with investigators.

He ran away from the couple a year later. At one point, police responded to the house to investigate him for stealing. About four months after moving in, he attempted suicide.

In his interview with investigators over the summer, Matt Sandusky characterized his acting out as a cry for help during a period of sustained abuse.

"It just became very uncomfortable," he said on the recording. "With the showering, with the hugging, with the rubbing, with the - just talking to me. The way he spoke. . . . Anything, any time we were alone."

Dorothy Sandusky offered another explanation for her son's behavior in her letter to Cleland: "He has been diagnosed with bipolar, but he refuses to take his medicine."

Her son's lawyer declined to discuss Wednesday whether Matt Sandusky had been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Whatever the cause, his decision to publicly accuse his father dealt the former coach's defense a devastating blow at trial, his lawyers have said.

Court transcripts of the proceeding reveal an intense back-and-forth in the judge's chambers once Matt Sandusky's cooperation with prosecutors was disclosed.

Jerry Sandusky planned to testify in his own defense. His lawyers feared that prosecutors could call his son as a rebuttal witness. Ultimately, they decided to keep the former coach off the stand. "He always wanted to tell people his side of the allegations," defense lawyer Joseph Amendola is quoted as saying in the transcript. "However, the potential evidence, whether true or not, was so devastating."

Letter Excerpts

Dorothy Sandusky on July 9 sent a letter to Judge John M. Cleland to give him her view of her husband days after his conviction:

"I have known Jerry for 47 years and he has always been truthful with me, even if it hurt."

"Jerry always put others before himself and always wanted to make each person feel special no matter who they were."

"Jerry was a wonderful father to our six children . . .. Our house was a fun house with lots of games, picnics, laughs, and caring. There were always lots of people around whether it was friends or our kids, Second Mile kids or neighbors."

"I never saw him do anything inappropriate to any child, if I had, as a Mother and Grandmother I would have taken action."

"I use to believe in our protective system, but now have no faith in the police or legal system. To think that they can lie and get by with the lies. The press has been unbelievable. People who have not met us are writing untruths."

"I pray each day that God will give me the strength to do what is right and that I will be able to hold our family together."

Contact Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218,, or follow @jeremyrroebuck on Twitter.

Read Jerry Sandusky's and Dottie Sandusky's letters to the judge here. 

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