DISTRICTS SUED OVER MOLESTATIONSSCHOOLS LET PREDATOR RUN FREE, VICTIM'S FAMILY SAYS

After Phoenix police arrested David McCord in January 1991, the parents of one of his molestation victims contacted attorneys about filing a lawsuit.

"We were basically told we didn't have much of a case and that we should move on in life," says Phoenix resident Mary Deuel.

The Deuels--Mary, her husband, Charles, oldest son Ricky and two younger sons--tried to do just that. But they couldn't.

"It was just so wrong how that man got access to Ricky and those other kids," Mary Deuel says. "We want to make it right."
Now, almost two years since McCord's arrest, the Deuels may have a chance to make things right.

On Christmas Eve, the family's new attorney, William Mettler, filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court against the Phoenix and Mesa school districts. The suit also named several individuals involved in hiring McCord in those districts.

The Deuels' lawsuit comes on the heels of a series of stories published in New Times (Sex Education," October 28, November 18, November 25) that revealed how poor background checks allow predatory pedophiles such as McCord to flourish inside Arizona's public schools.

Among other findings, the series told how the Phoenix Union High School District hired McCord in August 1988 after a superficial background check uncovered nothing untoward.

Yet reams of alarming material about McCord were readily available through public records. The documents included a $6.3 million civil judgment against McCord in Maricopa County Superior Court for sexually molesting his three adopted children. Experts in that case had judged McCord a pedophile--an adult who seeks sexual gratification from children.

South Mountain High School hired McCord a few days before the staggering court judgment, but apparently no one at the school learned about it until after Phoenix police arrested him in January 1991.

The series revealed that a sex-crimes police detective had told a Mesa school official in 1985 that the only reason he hadn't arrested McCord on charges of molesting his stepchildren was that because they were mentally handicapped, the children had been judged incompetent to testify. But Mesa High's principal allowed McCord to teach through the end of the school year.

Ricky Deuel was a key prosecution witness at McCord's trial. Prosecutors accused the math teacher of molesting Ricky and several other students.

The case against the 43-year-old man who called himself "the God of A's and F's"--in reference to the power he wielded over his students--attracted a great deal of media attention. It ended in a jury verdict of guilty on almost all counts.

But 18-year-old Ricky Deuel wasn't around to see McCord sentenced to prison. He died of heart failure last April, a few days before Judge Norman Hall sentenced McCord to what amounts to a life term.

After the New Times story appeared, the Deuels were able to find a lawyer to present their case.

The Deuels' lawsuit adds no new details to the New Times story, and alleges Ricky Deuel "died in part as a result of the stress placed upon him by the molestations and the subsequent criminal prosecution arising from Mr. McCord's arrest." Medical records indicate the young man had suffered from lifelong cardiovascular problems.

The suit also alleges the surviving Deuels sustained "grave and debilitating emotional and psychological injuries."

Neither Mesa nor Phoenix has responded to the lawsuit. But school officials from both districts did respond to New Times.

"I won't hide what happened," a Phoenix school official said in October. "We didn't have an appropriate system in place that made us check backgrounds like we should have. I hope this never happens again.

 
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