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Monday, October 15, 2012

Jerry and Dorothy Sandusky: The Pedophile and His Enabling Wife

     Just when you think you've heard the last of Jerry Sandusky, the convicted Penn State child molester, he pops back into the news. The current burst of media attention involves a letter his wife Dorothy, aka "Dottie," wrote to John Cleland before the judge recently sentenced her husband to thirty to sixty years in prison.

     In her leniency plea to the judge, Mrs. Sandusky referred to Jerry as a "man of very high morals." While portraying the former football coach as a saint, Dottie labeled the ten witnesses who had testified against him last summer as ungrateful liars. The outraged wife blamed Jerry's sex offense conviction on a vast conspiracy comprised of dishonest criminal investigators, overzealous prosecutors, perjuring witnesses, and a tabloid news media. She also accused Penn State University officials of putting public relation concerns above honesty. She then laid into Matt, one of the Sandusky's six adopted children. Matt, just before the jurors began deliberating Jerry Sandusky's fate, publicly accused the defendant of repeatedly sexually molesting him.

     In 1987, Matt Hiechel, a troubled 8-year-old, met Jerry Sandusky through his charity, The Second Mile. The coach took the boy, who was living in a foster home, to football games, and spent a lot of time with him alone. At one point, Matt told his biological mother, Debra Long, that he didn't want to see Mr. Sandusky anymore. The boy's desire to be left alone by the coach did not end the relationship.

     In 1996, after Matt burned down a barn, Jerry and Dottie Sandusky took the 17-year-old into their home, and a year later, adopted him. In March 1996, Matt tried to kill himself by overdosing on aspirin. (He later described the suicide attempt as a cry for help.)

     During middle of Jerry Sandusky's trial, Matt told investigators that the defendant had repeatedly molested him, and that he was willing to testify for the prosecution. (He didn't testify.) In an audio-taped police interview, Matt said this about his relationship with the coach: "It just became very uncomfortable. With the showering, with the hugging, with the rubbing...."

     In her letter to Judge Cleland, Dottie wrote: "People need to know what kind of person he [Matt] is. We have forgiven him many times for all he had done to our family, thinking he was changing his life, but he would always go back to his stealing and lies. He has been diagnosed Bipolar, but he refuses to take his medicine."

     Mrs. Sandusky reminds me of Anna Hauptmann, the woman married to Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the man convicted in 1935 for the murder of the 20-month-old son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh. Following Hauptmann's electrocution in April 1936, Mrs. Hauptmann, in the face of overwhelming evidence of her husband's guilt, devoted her life to exonerating him. She did this, I think, because she simply couldn't live with the realization she had been married to a baby killer.   

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