He repeatedly noted that Muhammad gave him his attention and time, a gift the boy treasured. I pointed to what looked like a new Timex watch on Malvo’s left wrist. Malvo, convicted of capital murder in Virginia, is serving multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole. Imagine that, I said, a guy for whom time means nothing wanting to keep track of time.
‘But I loved them’
As with Malvo, my contact with Kevin Ricks began with a letter. Ricks, a high school English teacher, had been arrested in February 2010 on a charge of taking “indecent liberties” with a minor in Manassas. Based on our initial reporting, I soon suspected that this case was just one of many.
Ricks had moved often during the past 30 years, taking jobs at numerous schools in several states. Everywhere I called, people told me that he had suddenly left town without much explanation. Usually, the departures coincided with rumors of inappropriate relationships or apparent stalking of students.
Ricks wrote back almost immediately, and we started talking by phone, sometimes for hours a day. Then 50 years old, Ricks was adamant that he had done nothing wrong. Yet every person he suggested I speak to said otherwise.
They described a predator, someone who developed relationships with boys, cultivated their friends and families, then got them drunk and molested them in their sleep.
After interviewing several of Ricks’s victims, I spoke with him, via videoconference, at the Prince William County jail, where he was serving a one-year sentence on the indecent liberties charge. He would later plead guilty to federal charges and be sentenced to 25 years in prison.
He was eager to talk. I had just returned from Denmark, where I interviewed a man who had lived with Ricks in Danville, Va., for six months in 1999 as a foreign-exchange student. I told him I had met the former student on the banks of a canal in Copenhagen.
Ricks leaned forward in his chair, his eyes wide. “What did he look like?”
I related a story the man had told me, about finding naked photographs of himself in Ricks’s bedside table drawer and then confronting Ricks.
“And then . . .” I started, but Ricks finished the sentence: “. . . we went out back and burned them in the barbecue.”
Ricks eventually admitted pretty much anything I could confirm through my reporting. Abuse of boys in Japan. Abuse of boys in North Carolina. Abuse of boys in Virginia and Maryland and Georgia.
I sat down with Ricks in person on Dec. 4, 2010, locked in a jail cell with him for six hours. He seemed intelligent, worldly, kind. He is a storyteller, endearing and witty — the kind of teacher you want involved in your kid’s education.
When confronted with his crimes, he admitted “misbehavior” with half a dozen boys but refused to believe he had done anything to hurt anyone. He insisted that his midnight photography was artistic, a way for him to solidify relationships with teenagers without causing any lasting damage — because they were all passed out. He viewed what he did as “the least intrusive thing to do.”