Jerry Lee Parrish’s first run-in with the Scouts was in 1976, when a boy came home after spending time with the North Carolina scoutmaster, and his mother noticed something oily in his hair. The boy told his father that Parrish had taken nude photos of him, put oil on him and touched him, according to the files. The father put a loaded shotgun in his car and tried to find Parrish. A former district executive wrote that the mother of another Scout disclosed she had once caught Parrish touching her son inappropriately.
Local Scout officials “filed some forms” about Parrish that fall with the national office, the district executive recollected about 15 years later. “We received a reply that we could not ‘black flag’ Jerry’s name at the registration office for reasons that I can’t recall today,” he wrote.
Parrish moved elsewhere. In the early 1980s, he joined a troop in Pittsboro, N.C. In 1990, Parrish, then a 43-year-old systems analyst at North Carolina State University, was arrested for molesting two Scouts. He allegedly told his victims that he was going to hypnotize them -- then he would perform oral sex on them.
He pleaded guilty to four counts of taking indecent liberties with a child and was sentenced to 20 years, with all but six months suspended.
In 1998, Parrish was arrested again, this time in Florida, after flying there for what he hoped would be a sexual tryst with a 12-year-old boy he met on an Internet chat site. The “boy” turned out to be an undercover cop. Parrish faced federal charges because of his interstate travel and Internet use; he was convicted of sexual exploitation and enticement of a minor. He was sentenced to 18 years.
The Parrish case exposes how the rules meant to protect Scouts were sometimes ignored or violated. Local Scout leaders would notify national staffers of a problem, but the alleged molester wouldn’t be barred from Scouting. In other cases, local Scout officials would fail to report a leader accused of misconduct or would take months – or even years – to alert the national office.