By John Ruberry
Online commentators, particularly those on blogs, are known for their vitriol and sometimes cursory devotion to the truth.
But the accumulation of comments on a since-pulled online version of an article from a free weekly newspaper and a blog have led to the indictment on child molestation charges of a 94 year-old retired suburban Chicago physical education teacher and former Boy Scout leader, William Bricker, who now resides in northern Michigan.
The unraveling of his reputation began in 2005 when the Glen Arbor Sun of Grand Traverse County Michigan published a hagiographic human interest piece on Bricker, which included his recollections of combat in World War II and his summers as a counselor at a Wyoming summer camp near Grand Teton National Park, titled Old Cowboy, New Tricks: Lessons from Bill Bricker’s Adventurous Life. Comments, some vaguely accusatory, some supportive of Bricker, began appearing on the Sun’s website. But after the arrest of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky for numerous molestation and rapes in 2011, the comments became more numerous and nastier.
Judy Linklater, who writes Mrs. Linklater’s Guide to the Universe blog, had her suspicions about Bricker, took the lead on the story–although the establishment media has mostly ignored her efforts–after the Sun yanked the article from its website in 2012. Her half-brothers had noticed Bricker’s odd behavior. The gym teacher’s overly affectionate actions around children, both male and female, for years had raised eyebrows in Winnetka, Illinois, where Bricker taught and where Linklater was raised.
Accusations of Bricker’s inappropriate contact with students at Hubbards Wood Elementary School, where he was employed as a teacher and then a substitute for over 40 years, go back to the 1950s and school officials were aware of them in 1968.
But the statute of limitations in Illinois on such crimes prevents charges against Bricker in Illinois, but that is not the case in Wyoming. Bricker was arrested in September–he’s accused of molesting boys at the Wyoming summer camp in 1962 and 1985. The 1992 Winnetka Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year, who now breathes with the aid of oxygen tanks, is fighting extradition to Wyoming.
Linklater did more than blog, she reached out to the alleged victims and she has been the lead reporter on the Bricker story–she’s a true journalist.
Other than their status as alleged victims of Bricker, there is a common link they share. Each thought they were alone–only they were reportedly harmed by him. They weren’t–when these emotionally-scarred individuals typed “Winnetka” and “Bricker” into an internet search box they discovered others who also have repulsive memories of the Old Cowboy.
UPDATE January 11, 2015: AP is reporting that Bricker died in Michigan two days ago.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.