Friday, November 30, 2007

A step closer to closure

"The abuse is bad enough but to think that there's photographs of it someplace is really eerie," stated attorney Holly Abery-Wetstone.

Witness after witness testified before the the state medical board in 1993 that Dr George E Reardon had photographed them while he molested them in his office. Reardon had practiced at St Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford CT for 30 years before he resigned in 1993.

The doctor touched and took pictures of the children at the hospital and away from his office when he took children on camping trips or to motels. His accusers stated that Reardon had fondled and masturbated them and then took pornographic and provocative pictures of them. He generally practiced alone so he has only a secretary in his outer office but many of his victims claimed that they had appointments with him in the evening or on weekends when even she wasn't there.

Reardon, whose area of expertise was childhood sexual developement, claimed that he was doing growth studies. Some of the children involved were his patients, others from the neighborhood and still others were patients in the hospital that he recruited for his "studies." Some of the children were as young as 8 years old and many told the same stories of touching, mainpulating and photographing.

A brother and sister filed the first two complaints against Reardon in 1987, claiming that he had abused them when they were 5 and 7. Reardon was practicing in New York in the years between 1956 and 1961 when the two stated they had been abused. The thrid complaint against him came in 1989 when a Hartford woman claimed that he had abused her 14 years earlier when she was 10. It wasn't until the fourth complaint in 1993 that either St Francis or the state took any action against Reardon.

The Connecticut Medical Examining Board suspended his license but reinstated it after he agreed to not treat anyone under 18 and always have someone present when he did. When the decision was made public then, dozens more came forward to accuse him of abuse. In 1995, although he was retired, Reardon decided to give up his medical license and all action against him was stopped.

No photographs of the kind described by his accusers were presented at the medical board hearings as well as no growth studies. Reardon claimed that there was no study ever published because someone had beaten him to it. In his 1997 deposition for the civil suits filed against him, he claimed that he had kept hundreds of pictures of children in a locked safe in his hospital office but they were never found.

Reardon died in 1998 and the question of the photos he admitted having but never were found went with him to the grave it seems. His victims had felt the pressure of not being believed either for all the following years. Reardon's estate was settled and the meager dollars split between the victims who had filed suit against him. His home valued at $140,000 at the time of his death was left to Dean Beaulieu, one of two brothers he had taken into his home as their legal guardian. Authorities had always believed that Reardon had hidden the photographs somewhere near a lake house he had owned.

This May, Kenneth Mangini, the new owner of Reardon's home at 155 Griswald Dr, West Hartford CT, uncovered the mystery of the photographs. While doing renovations to the basement, he discovered 50,000 35 mm slides and over 100 8mm video reels hidden behind panels in a basement wall. Investigators state that it appears to be that hundreds of children were abused by Reardon and they definately confirm the stories told by those who stepped forward years ago. They are working to identify not only who the victims are but to discover if any of those photographs may have been shared with others.

While it may have appeared that Reardon took his secret to the grave......... circumstance uncovered how sinister his interests actually were and I would hope, can give some sense of closure to those who may not have been fully believed when they first stepped forward.

Update: November 30

"We've been taking phone calls most of the day," stated Capt Lori Coppinger.

By late afternoon on Thursday, West Hartford Police had fielded almost 50 phone calls from people in their 30's to the 60's. All twelve detectives were pressed into service in taking their calls. All of them state that they are childhood victims of Reardon and the stories for the most part, are very consistant.

The investigators have been studying the photos for the past month and they have been working with both the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the FBI in finding the best solution to identifying the children in the photos. Samples of both the 8mm and slides will be converted to DVD format in in hopes of finding out if Readon had shared his photos with others.

The system they have set up but are not using yet includes asking the victims for a photo of themselves at around the age they were abused and searches will be made for a match in the collection. The matches will be made only facially and if there is a match, the victim will be asked to confirm the match. The photos will not be destroyed until the investigation is complete and they are no longer needed as evidence. Right now, they are locked away seperately from the regular evidence room, all to protect the identity of what looks to be hundreds of victims.

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