N.C. charges teacher in abuse

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 23, 2010; B6

Police in North Carolina have charged former Manassas teacher Kevin Ricks with sexually molesting a young boy there more than 30 years ago in a case that stems from evidence that Ricks has abused numerous boys while working as a camp counselor, teacher and foreign exchange host since the late 1970s.

Roanoke Rapids, N.C., authorities charged Ricks with taking indecent liberties with a minor. The latest charge comes amid a sweeping federal investigation of Ricks's alleged alcohol-soaked encounters with boys in several states and overseas that came to a halt when he was arrested this year in Manassas. The charge in Roanoke Rapids, Ricks's childhood home, relates to an incident at his parents' home with a 10-year-old boy Ricks met at a summer camp for children with disabilities. The boy is deaf.

A Washington Post investigation, published in July, revealed that Ricks, 50, abused boys throughout his teaching career and brought foreign exchange students into his home, some of whom he molested while they were passed out or asleep. He bounced among public and private schools, avoiding detection or leaving school systems when they began to suspect inappropriate behavior, the investigation found.

The Post detailed the allegations in the North Carolina case after interviews with the victim's family this year. It is the first known case tied to Ricks. The Post story revealed decades of predation that law enforcement officials and victims say stretched from North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland to Japan, all locations where Ricks has worked as a teacher.

The North Carolina victim, now 42 and living in Virginia, said in an interview Wednesday that the abuse has affected him throughout his life and that the realization that Ricks had done the same thing to other boys shocked him. He spoke on condition of anonymity, and The Post generally does not identify victims of sex crimes.

"He's ruined a lot of kids' lives, like he did with mine," he said. "I still wonder how someone could do that to a child. It is just so wrong."

Ricks pleaded guilty in July to charges that he molested a former Osbourn High School student after providing him with beer and shots of tequila over winter break. Ricks is in the Prince William County jail awaiting sentencing next month. With his guilty plea, Ricks now will have to register as a sex offender, ending his teaching career.

Federal authorities also have charged him with possession and transportation of child pornography, and they likely will take him into custody when his Virginia case concludes, law enforcement officials said. There is a warrant for his arrest in North Carolina and a tentative court date there for November.

Ricks also kept extensive handwritten journals that describe abuse dating to his teen years, and police collected thousands of pieces of evidence from his home in Federalsburg, Md.

Ricks's attorney declined to comment Wednesday. In an earlier written statement, Ricks said he has tried to be a "model of compassion and empathy. To the extent that I have failed causes me grief for which I will spend the rest of my days seeking forgiveness and atonement."

Ricks met the North Carolina boy at Camp Holiday Trails in Charlottesville, when he was working as a counselor in the late 1970s. Ricks cultivated a close relationship with the boy and his family.

While the boy's mother was going through a difficult divorce, Ricks took him on a winter vacation to Disney World and later offered to host him for the summer in North Carolina, where Ricks's family lives. Ricks changed that summer, the victim said.

Instead of lavishing him with gifts and attention, a pattern Ricks would repeat with other boys , he became controlling and obsessive and once even hit him, the boy said. He said Ricks, then about 18, also was demeaning. He would criticize the boy's attempts to speak and enunciate and would sometimes call him stupid. He said he now thinks that was just an attempt to control him: "It was a power thing. It still affects me to this day."

But Ricks also tried to be affectionate. He played with the boy's hair and told him how sweet he was. And then one day in the television room, he asked the boy whether he had ever French kissed. "I didn't know what that meant," the victim said. "He was persistent, and he wanted to show me, and I kept saying no. He came over and tried to kiss me. . . . It was something I will never forget. It scarred me. He was mad because I refused to cooperate."

The behavior escalated, the victim said. One afternoon, Ricks asked the boy to go upstairs, where Ricks was lying naked on his bed. "He undressed me," the victim said. "That's when the molestation started. I didn't understand what was happening."

The boy kept quiet about the abuse for decades because Ricks was a family friend and he was afraid of angering his siblings or his mother. When Ricks was arrested in Manassas in February, the victim cried because he could finally express his feelings.

"I wish back then that I had known what I know today so I would have been able to better protect myself," the victim said. "When I found out the extent of it, I was shocked. But at the same time, I guess you could say I wasn't surprised."

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