It wasn’t just Scout victims whose lives were affected. Sometimes, whole families were devastated.
Veronica Akins, of Bishop Hills, Texas, said that’s what happened when her 13-year-old son was molested by Scout leader Melvin Christopher Estes in the late 1980s. Estes tried to fondle him in the bathroom of the church where the troop met, according to the victim’s deposition. Another time, Estes invited him into his bedroom to look at pornographic magazines. He started massaging the boy and tried to take off his pants.
Estes was convicted in 1989 of three counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of indecency with a child. One of the four victims was Akins’ son, Chance Curtis. Estes was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Akins sued the Boy Scouts of America and the local council, claiming they were negligent in allowing Estes to remain a Scout leader. She alleged that they knew he’d been accused of molestation previously, but ignored it and gave him his own troop.
The Boy Scouts argued that Estes was quickly suspended after local officials learned of molestation allegations. The Scouts maintained that while they chartered community-based organizations that sponsored troops, they didn’t supervise them or choose Scout leaders.
The mother of four appealed her case all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. It ruled in 1996 that the national organization could not be held responsible, but that the local council -- which recommended Estes for the scoutmaster’s job -- could. Akins later agreed to an undisclosed settlement.
Akins said her son, now 37, has never been the same.