Longform

Once More With Feeling

Page 4 of 7

At Hutchins' criminal trial, Jack told the jury what he'd written: "Dear Officer Funk, I'm feeling uncomfortable with Mr. Hutchins. He has been putting on my belts and tucking in my shirts. Really, he has been touching my private parts and I was wondering if you could do anything about it. P.S. Don't tell no one! Thanks."

Funk said under oath that Jack had mentioned nothing about "private parts." DeWalt--who recalled vaguely that Funk read the note aloud to her--concurs with the officer.

Funk and DeWalt agree they spoke to each other at Cactus View shortly after Funk got the letter. But DeWalt has said repeatedly she recalls little about the letter's substance, and is uncertain even if she knew its author was Jack.

Amazingly, there's no record indicating that DeWalt told Funk about the litany of prior complaints against Hutchins.

"It was totally out of my mind because I relied on Jerry [Funk]," DeWalt said later. "He was taking care of it."

In truth, both the principal and the officer were derelict.
Funk told a detective hours before Hutchins was arrested that he'd given Jack's damning letter to DeWalt. He recalled DeWalt telling him she'd handle the matter and that Jack's parents weren't interested in a prosecution.

"I was too buried to mess with it," Funk told his fellow officer. "I dropped the ball and shouldn't have."

Neither Funk nor DeWalt apparently recalled a second DARE letter, penned around this time by a student named Denise. Testimony at Wade Hutchins' trial indicated three other girls also signed the letter.

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."

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin