Longform

Once More With Feeling

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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."

But the Paradise Valley school officials still weren't ready to report these chilling allegations to law enforcement.

"The vast majority of the initial complaints turn out to be unfounded," Krebs explained in his first interview with detectives after Hutchins' arrest. ". . . [but] looking at it and knowing what you've got today from those three or four parents, it certainly looks like more should have been done in January or October, or whenever it was. It's an easy call right now."

"Prior to these parents coming forward," the detective asked, "had you heard anything from any source, [about] inappropriate conduct or anything negative about Mr. Hutchins?"

"No, not once," Krebs replied, apparently forgetting the 1994 summary letter he instructed DeWalt to write, the DARE letters and other numerous complaints against Hutchins about which DeWalt had sought his counsel.

The Paradise Valley Unified School District never did report the allegations against Wade Hutchins. Instead, an outraged parent called police on the evening of February 24, 1995.

By that time, Krebs--again following district policy--had showed Wade Hutchins the completed "harassment" forms. That action gave a suspected serial child molester a rare opportunity to know exactly what his victims were saying.

On March 2, Phoenix police executed a search warrant of Judy DeWalt's office at Cactus View. At first, they couldn't locate Hutchins' personnel file. Finally, an officer found it inside DeWalt's briefcase.

She explained she'd taken it home so no one else could see it.

Spin control became the order of the day after Wade Hutchins' arrest.
Paradise Valley Unified issued fliers that included ironic comments about how its employees were cooperating fully with police.

The Phoenix police themselves were spinning about how Gerald Funk had failed to take action on the students' DARE letters. Spokesman Mike Torres claimed Jack's information had been vague.

"It wasn't, 'That guy touched me inside my clothes,'" Torres told reporters after parents learned of Jack's DARE letter. "It was more, 'He makes me feel uncomfortable.'"

How Torres knew this, since Jack's letter had vanished, is unknown. (Investigators wouldn't become aware of the second DARE letter, written by Denise, for weeks.)

The police didn't mention the previous investigative blunder that involved their own Detective Rodriguez. Detectives didn't learn of the 1994 Phoenix Parks and Recreation incident and the two brothers until the boys' mother contacted them shortly after Hutchins' arrest. (Two other Hutchins victims later emerged from the summer program. Rodriguez later was transferred out of sex crimes and Funk out of the DARE program.)

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin