DETROIT (AP) — The state of Wyoming is seeking to have a 94-year-old former camp counselor and gym teacher sent from Michigan to face sexual assault charges, decades after abuse that three people say occurred at a Boy Scouts and summer ranch camp when they were children.
Although the allegations were either not made or investigated at the time, authorities began building a case against William Bricker after receiving pages of blog notes earlier this year indicating possible "immoral and indecent acts with children in the late 1960s and early 1970s."
Bricker, who also taught physical education in Illinois for more than three decades, has now been charged in Wyoming's Teton County with immoral acts with a child and immoral or indecent acts. The incidents allegedly occurred in 1962, 1968 and 1985.
But a judge in Northern Michigan ruled Thursday that Bricker must undergo a competency evaluation before any extradition hearing can be held.
Bricker's attorney Anders Gillis says he suffers from heart failure and uses an oxygen tank to breathe, and is in home hospice care. Bricker, who was arrested in September, didn't attend Thursday's hearing.
"We need to determine whether or not he is able to recall whether he was present in the state of Wyoming at the time of the alleged crimes," Gillis told The Associated Press, noting that Bricker is presumed innocent.
Teton County sheriff's detective Dani Spence and county prosecutor Steve Weichman, citing state law, said they could not discuss the case or charges against Bricker.
The charges stem from information investigators received in February about abuse at the Teton Valley Ranch Camp, according to an affidavit filed in Teton County Circuit Court.
One former scout said he was 13 when he was molested in 1962 in a bunk-style cabin. He told police in September that the issue of molestations was brought up in the late 1960s and he thought he "had communicated" to an assistant Boy Scouts leader at that time that he knew about the accusations and had been "hurt."
Now about 65, the man told investigators "he never heard the Boy Scouts ... did anything about the accusation at that time," the affidavit said.
The Boy Scouts of America was not aware of the allegations against Bricker until earlier this year, spokesman Deron Smith told The AP Thursday in an email.
"While this individual was last involved in Scouting in 1988, when we received notice of alleged abuse this year we reported it to law enforcement officials in Wyoming and Illinois and have assisted them in their investigation," Smith said.
Smith added that the organization has developed and enhanced its efforts to protect its young members in the decades since the alleged incidents took place.
A woman also told investigators last month that she was about 14 years old when she was kissed and fondled during an overnight camping trip in 1968 at Grand Teton National Park. And another former scout who spent five weeks at the camp in 1985 told police last February that he was molested on at least six occasions in the cabin he shared with nine to 11 other boys.
Wyoming has no statute of limitations in felony cases that would preclude charges for long-ago crimes.
The Teton Valley Ranch Camp Education Foundation board wrote in a letter to families and former campers that the camp was under different owners and management at the time of the alleged abuse. The camp had operated in Kelly, Wyoming, from 1939 to 2000, according to court documents. It was later sold and moved to Fremont County.
"We don't have a lot of additional information," the letter read. "What we do know is that, as an organization dedicated to the development and care of children, we seek and support justice for any person or persons who may have been harmed and lived with this for decades."
Bricker worked as a physical education teacher at Hubbard Woods Elementary School in Winnetka, Illinois, a suburb north of Chicago, from 1949 to 1985, Winnetka Public Schools spokeswoman Marcia Sutter said.
Sutter said she could not comment on whether the district received complaints from children or how the district responded, citing an "ongoing investigation."
Associated Press writer Tammy Webber in Chicago contributed to this report.