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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Edgar Friedrichs, Jr.: The Profile of a Pedophile

     The recent allegations of pedophilia involving a former Penn State football coach during the years 1994 to 2009 reminds me of a murder case private investigator Dan Barber and I investigated ten years ago in central West Virginia. (Dan Barber, who works out of McKean, Pennsylvania, specializes in criminal cases.)

     On November 5, 2011, the police arrested 67-year-old Jerry Sandusky on charges he had sexually molested boys he'd met through The Second Mile, a charity he had founded in 1977 for at-risk youths. According to investigators, officials at the university knew of sexual accusations against the coach but failed to alert the authorities. According to one of Sandusky's accusers, a man now 27 years old, the coach initiated physical contact with boys in the locker room showers through a game he called "soap battle." According to this accuser, Sandusky had given him clothing, golf clubs, and hockey and football gear. He also gave the boy $50 to buy marijuana which the youngster smoked in his car. Sandusky drove this victim to The Second Mile functions and to Penn State football games. When the victim resisted Sandusky's advances, the coach, according to the allegations, threatened to send him home from the Alamo Bowl.

     In 2002, a Penn State graduate student reportedly saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a 10-year-old naked boy in a team locker room shower. The student reported the incident to head coarch Joe Paterno who passed the information on to athletic director Tim Curley. Paterno, when it became obvious this information had not gone any further, did not report Sandusky to law enforcement.

     Instead of falling on his sword for his role in the sex abuse scandal, Coach Paterno promised his team and his school he would complete the football season, then retire. No real coach would let a sex scandal distract him from the next big game. A day later the trustees, apparently more concerned about the scandal than beating Nebraska, fired Paterno. In response, a thousand PSU students took to the streets in protest.

Edgar Friedrichs and the Murder of Jeremy Bell

     In 1999, a professor at Edinboro University related to Jeremy Bell showed me a newspaper clipping featuring the 12-year-old's 1997 death in a cabin along the New River owned by 58-year-old Edgar Friedrichs, the boy's former teacher in Fayette County West Virginia. While the healthy boy had died suddenly under extremely suspicious circumstances, his death had not been investigated by the local authorities. As a result, when we begain our investigation, Friedrichs was still teaching in the local school system. It looked to us that he had gotten away with murder.

     After interviewing several of Friedrich's fellow teachers and a number of his former students, it became obvious that the teacher had been obsesed with Jeremy Bell. He had taught the boy to swim in his indoor poor at his home in Fayetteville, West Virginia. The teacher had attended all of Jeremy's little league baseball and basketball games, took him skiing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, and to plays, movies and amusement parks. Friedrichs bought Jeremy expensive gifts and employed him to cut his grass and do other household chores. At the Beckwith Elementary School, Edgar made sure Jeremy received extra helpings of food in the cafeteria, took him out of class to tutor him privately in his office (Friedrichs was also the part-time principal), and organized field trips for Jeremy and his friends. Friedrichs also sponsored special student groups such as chess club, honors club, intramural club and art club. During field trips to amusement parks Friedrichs would let the boys smoke cigarettes, drink beer, and look at sexually explicit magazines. Edgar and his students also spent a lot of time swimming nude in the New River.

     Friedrichs, since coming to West Virginia in 1975 from Delaware County Pennsylvania where he'd taught at an elementary school since 1964, had worked at five elementary schools in Fayette County. In 1985 and 1986, at the elementary school in Powellton, West Virginia, Friedrichs sexually assaulted one of  his students. When the boy's parents found out, Friedrichs, a wealthy man by local standards, bought their silence by buying the father a gas station, and giving the mother a secretarial job in the school system.

     In November 2001, based on our investigation of Friedrichs and his relationship with Jeremy Bell, a Fayette County grand jury indicted him for sexually molesting four boys. Finally, after 26 years of teaching in the state of West Virginia, Friedrichs was taken out of the classroom. In January 2002, after a three-day trial, a jury found him guilty of sexual abuse by a custodian. The judge sentenced him to no less than 30 and no more than 65 years in prison.

     In July 2005, a Fayette jury found Friedrichs guilty of murdering Jeremy Bell on November 8, 1997. He was sentenced to life without parole. (A few months earlier "NBC Dateline" aired a forty minute documentary about our investigation of Jeremy Bell's death.)

     I already see similarities between the Jeremy Bell case and the developing Penn State scandal. One is the nature of the relationship between the coach and his alleged victims. The other involves how knowing co-workers allowed suspicious behavior to go on indefinitely. Pedophiles are serial predators. Until they are caught and brought to justice, the victimization continues.


  1. Mr. Friedrichs was my 5th grade teacher back at Interboro, As a young girl I didn't know much about such matters, however I was very aware of his actions towards boys, be there friend, having them sitting all around his desk and when our work was being check by Friedrich, he always had his arm around them. One boy in my class father was a priest at a church, there was something going on with him & Fridrichs. I know now that he was going after the priest's son. the one thing I remember most about Friedrichs is how mean he was never smile

    1. In 1969, he was also one of my 5th grade teachers. I also remember him as being mean and never smiling. Being a girl, I also felt ignored by him in class.