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Story pick: Finding evidence of child abuse

The reality is teachers are sometimes arrested and charged with molesting the students entrusted to them. And when these stories hit the news, they are generally very carefully written, riddled with phrases such as “allegedly” and “according to authorities.”

They are usually short pieces, limited by their single sidedness, by victims that are underage, unnamed and therefore, unavailable for interviews. They are uncomfortable to write and read, not just because of the facts that are known but because of what remains unknown.

That’s what makes the story that ran on the front page of The Post on Sunday so extraordinary. The reporters – Josh White, Blaine Harden and Jennifer Buske – take us deep into the case of Manassas teacher Kevin Ricks, letting us hear from several of his victims, some who didn’t know they were abused until authorities found compromising photos of them among Ricks’s belongings.

On the surface, Ricks is charged with sexual battery of one teenager, which he is expected to plead guilty to this week. But The Post’s investigation, supported by police evidence – videos, pictures and detailed journal entries – reveals a trail that stretches back 30 years and across several countries. It also reveals the complexity of the relationships Ricks formed with the boys he singled out, including one in Japan, where he taught English:

Takashi Kajiwara, now 31 and a father of four, remembers being Ricks's "favorite." Then a junior high school student, Kajiwara was treated to taco dinners at Ricks's home and to frequent concert tickets…
Kajiwara said he remembers Ricks becoming close with the rest of his family, including his parents and grandmother. Ricks also taught his siblings, including a younger brother. At one point, Ricks tried to get affectionate with Kajiwara while in Japan.
"He approached, but I didn't like it. I said no," Kajiwara said. "He tried to hug me many times. At first I thought it was just because he is American . . . a kind of custom. But little by little, I thought it was a little bit strange."
Then came the trip to the United States.
Kajiwara said he flew alone with Ricks to San Francisco in 1994, and they drove across the country in a rented car, stopping to see the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains before staying at the Ricks family home in North Carolina for three weeks.
On the first night, in a San Francisco hotel room, Ricks brought out tequila and set down shot glasses rimmed with salt. Ricks told Kajiwara that it was customary to drink eight or nine tequila shots in a row, so he did, leading him to pass out cold. The rest is hazy at best...
Law enforcement officials said they have found extensive evidence of Kajiwara's trip with Ricks across the country, including VHS cassettes and photographs of sexual abuse in the San Francisco hotel room and at other locations. Some of the photos were discovered just days ago, law enforcement officials said.

You can find the piece here, along with an interactive timeline.

By Theresa Vargas  | July 26, 2010; 10:10 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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