Once More With Feeling

When parents repeatedly complained that a teacher was fondling their sons, school administrators and police officers looked the other way

Three of the four testified that the note--which also has disappeared--detailed how Hutchins had been fondling boys. One of those boys was Denise's brother Tommy.

The girls also told the jury how a Cactus View teacher had overheard them discussing the allegations against Hutchins and had accused them of lying.

DeWalt says she never saw Denise's note, though her journal reveals she met with the girl to talk about Hutchins.

"Did [Denise] tell you that Wade Hutchins had put his hands down [Tommy's] pants?" prosecutor Nannetti asked DeWalt during the criminal trial.

"She said that's what he had said," the principal responded.
Funk's attorneys in the pending civil suits say he neither saw Denise's note nor spoke to the girl "regarding any such allegations concerning Wade Hutchins."

But the same teacher who reportedly scoffed at the girls' allegations testified at Hutchins' trial that Funk had showed her Denise's note. That teacher also testified she told DeWalt about Denise's note within a day of seeing it.

It's not unreasonable to wonder why DeWalt was failing to heed the warning klaxon. The latest allegation against Hutchins sounded hauntingly similar to the December 1993 notation in her journal, "On lap, hands up pants/shorts leg."

DeWalt met separately in the next few days with Jack's father and Tommy's mother. She claimed later that Jack's father didn't want her to interview the boy. In fact, she said he suspected Jack was making some things up.

According to DeWalt, Tommy's mother also had her doubts: "She told me up-front, [Tommy] tends to lie and exaggerate."

DeWalt spoke to Tommy in his mother's presence.
"He shut down," DeWalt recalled of the interview. "In other words, he wasn't going to tell me any more. Mom was sitting there and she said, 'Is there anything else?' I don't remember if she asked him if Mr. Hutchins touched him specifically."

In October 1994, DeWalt wrote to Jack's father: "It is my perception that you wish the matter concerning Mr. Wade Hutchins to go no further. You feel that 'things seem okay now.' . . ."

The principal wrote a similar letter to Tommy and Denise's mother.
DeWalt says she informed assistant superintendent Krebs about Hutchins' latest problems. Krebs told her to issue the teacher a "summary letter," a step below formally disciplining him.

"This is to summarize our conference regarding when staff members should or should not touch students," the November 7, 1994, letter stated.

"It was reported by two parents that their sons had stated that you helped them with their makeshift belts so that their shorts would not fall off of them. They also said that you tucked in their shirts in their shorts as you did this, and they were uncomfortable with the situation. . . . We also discussed the danger of misinterpretation of assisting students in other ways, hugging, and when they tried to sit on an adult lap. It was decided that caution will be taken regarding all students when touch is involved. This is for your protection on a legal basis."

However, three weeks later, DeWalt gave Hutchins another rave review, this one tinged with unintentional double-entendre:

"Keep up the great work," she wrote. "Thank you for the extras you give the students at Cactus View."

Three months later, Hutchins was behind bars.

Wade Hutchins' sexual predation on the Cactus View campus ended in late February 1995. His downfall came after a mother overheard several boys gabbing about how Hutchins was always touching them and their classmates.

After several frantic calls to other parents, the mother called DeWalt on February 21, 1995.

"She said, 'I think something has been going on for years,'" the principal recalled, "'and I think he touches kids.' And she said something about [Hutchins] molesting [Jack]."

Four parents met the next day with DeWalt and assistant superintendent Krebs. In graphic detail, they described what Wade Hutchins allegedly had done to their sons. Per district policy, Krebs handed each of them a "sexual harassment" complaint form to fill out.

Immediately after the meeting, DeWalt and Krebs tracked down Hutchins at a skating rink and told him he was suspended with pay.

But the school officials didn't contact police or Child Protective Services, as Arizona law requires they do "immediately" after hearing criminal allegations.

The parents returned three of the four "harassment" forms to Cactus View within a day. (The fourth came a few days later.)

One parent wrote that her son had told her that on at least three occasions, "Mr. Hutchins went to tuck the shirt into his shorts and put his hand on his privates and rubbed."

A second parent's complaint read: "Approximately one year ago, when [my son] was in fourth grade, Mr. Hutchins unbuttoned the top button of [my son's] pants and slid his arm down the front of the pants and fondled his penis and testicles. . . . He also showed in a 'hands-on manner' how to massage a groin pull."

Another parent angrily scribbled: "Statement of child sex crimes: Years of sexual crimes, including abuse, harassment, threats and intimidation by Mr. Wade Hutchins. . . . When: 'Anytime he wants.' Earliest recollection: Second grade--slow touching--4 yrs. 'It's like he owns me. He treats me like a puppet on a string.' . . . Takes down or unzips pants, puts hand inside underwear, touches penis and does anything he wants."

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