The Wyoming County District Attorney’s Office has launched a new investigation of a former Boy Scouts of America troop leader after three men came forward to allege he sexually abused them decades ago.
The former scoutmaster, Edward A. Dreisbach, is among thousands of men and a few women nationwide who have been banned by the Boy Scouts based on allegations of sexual misconduct, according to documents obtained by The Times Leader.
The organization took the action in 1989 after the men, former members of Troop 336 based in Center Moreland, contacted Scout executives and alleged they had been subjected to fondling and oral sex by Dreisbach, both at his home and while on Scout trips, the documents reveal.
Dreisbach, 83, of Falls, was never charged with a crime in connection with the 1989 report, but Boy Scout executives determined there was sufficient evidence to revoke his registration on June 23, 1989, the records show.
The case caught the attention of Wyoming County District Attorney Jeff Mitchell in June after one of the alleged victims from the 1970s, Tunkhannock area native Robert Smalanskas, went public about his alleged abuse.
Smalanskas, 52, claims Dreisbach repeatedly sexually abused him from age 10 to 14 between 1970 and 1974, and that he knows of other Scouts who were abused.
Mitchell said he’s looking into the case, but the investigation has been hampered due to the age of the alleged attacks.
“The problem we are facing for the (alleged) victims we have now is the statute of limitations has expired,” Mitchell said. “If we don’t find more recent victims, he might not be charged.”
Contacted at his home, Dreisbach declined to comment on the 1989 allegations or the current investigation.
His attorney, Todd Johns of Archbald, said the 1989 case was investigated and no evidence was found to warrant charges.
“There was an allegation made in 1989. That allegation was investigated by the Boy Scouts and also referred to Wyoming County Children and Youth Services,” Johns said. “They determined there was no victim who could be identified and no further action was taken against him.”
Johns said authorities asked Dreisbach to be interviewed regarding the new investigation, but Johns advised his client not to speak “based on his Fifth Amendment right,” against self-incrimination.
Smalanskas, of Lewisberry, Dauphin County, said he felt compelled to tell his story because allegations against Dreisbach, a retired professor of engineering at the Penn State University’s Wilkes-Barre campus in Lehman Township, have never been made public. He reported Dreisbach to the Boy Scouts, but he never went to police.
“I had him removed from the Boy Scouts in 1989, but unfortunately, I let it go after that. That always bothered me,” he said.
Smalanskas said he also was concerned because he learned that as late as 2010, Dreisbach held a position with the Prince of Peace Episcopal Church in Dallas.
According to a copy of the church’s 2010 annual report, Dreisbach served as acolyte master that year -- a position that involves overseeing congregants, often children, who provide ceremonial services, such as lighting altar candles.
In an email, Bill Lewellis, a spokesman for the Episcopal diocese, said the church’s board of directors was notified that a parishioner was under investigation, but the person’s name was not revealed “because this is an investigation, not an accusation.”
“For the same reason an announcement has not been made to the parish at large,” Lewellis said.
Referring to Dreisbach as “the person in question,” Lewellis said he has been removed from any activities involving children. The names of all youths who had contact with him were also provided to Mitchell, he said.
“Nothing has been alleged by anyone to have ever happened between the person in question and any youth at Prince of Peace Church,” he said.
It’s not clear how much investigation was done after Smalanskas and two others made their allegations in 1989.
Dreisbach is one of thousands of former Scout leaders nationwide who are named in internal Scout documents that detail actions taken against leaders who were accused of sexual misconduct.
Documents relating to Dreisbach’s case were provided to The Times Leader by attorney Tim Kosnoff of Seattle, Wash., who obtained Dreisbach’s file as part of several civil lawsuits he filed against the Boy Scouts.
The 16-page file includes letters and handwritten notes from Gerard Lupien, a Scout executive, regarding conversations he had with Dreisbach’s three accusers and detailing actions he took.
In a Dec. 12, 1989 letter to the Scout’s director of registration, Lupien said he reported the alleged abuse to Wyoming County Children and Youth Services caseworker Jerry Pitkas.
The letter says Pitkas advised Lupien that because he had no firsthand accusation, he could not open a full investigation. Pitkas did say he passed the information, including a list of former troop members, on to the Wyoming County District Attorney’s office.
Contacted last week, Pitkas said he had no recollection of the Dreisbach case. George Skumanick, who had just taken over as district attorney at the time the allegations first arose, also said he could not recall receiving a referral.
Mitchell said the current investigation began this summer after he learned of a website Smalanskas had started, revisitingthebeast.com, that included a narrative of the abuse he alleges to have endured from Dreisbach.
“What he had written was shocking and very disturbing. I wanted to get to the bottom of it. If this man did this, he should be brought to justice,” Mitchell said.
Smalanskas said he realizes there’s no chance Dreisbach will ever be charged for his alleged abuse because the statute of limitations has expired. He said he’s hopeful that by getting his story out, if there are other persons who claim to have been abused, they will come forward.
The statute of limitations for sex crimes against children has changed significantly in the past decade. Previously the statute was 10 years from the date of the offense. As of 2002, the statute was extended to 12 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. For child victims who turned 18 on or after Aug. 27, 2002, the state now has until the victim’s 50th birthday to bring charges.