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Peter Martin Ebel, ex-Stillwater teacher and fugitive pedophile suspect, back in jail
Peter Martin Ebel was many things to many people when he became a fugitive from justice in Minnesota 22 years ago.
To the students and faculty of St. Croix Catholic and Stillwater Junior High schools in the late 1970s, he was Edward Alan Scott, a published author, accomplished photographer and stern but brilliant math and Latin teacher. He also taught one of his proteges how to fly an airplane.
To officials of a boys academy in Georgia, he was Dr. Ebel, a respected and renowned child researcher based in Albania.
But much of what people knew about the man, now 54, was a deception — from his relationship with children and teaching background to the doctor credentials that led to felony drug charges against him in Minnesota in 1979.
Ebel jumped bail in 1980, and his whereabouts remained a mystery to authorities and others for two decades, until he was arrested last year and then pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges in Los Angeles.
Today, as Ebel sits in a federal prison cell awaiting sentencing and a possible mandatory minimum 10-year prison term, federal authorities and those who came in contact with Ebel are wondering aloud how many child victims there may be in Minnesota and elsewhere.
Ebel was detained at a California airport Sept. 7 and later was arrested after he was caught with sexually explicit pictures of young boys. In the process, federal officials learned he had been convicted 34 years ago in England on a sex-related charge.
Ebel’s court-appointed attorney could not be reached for comment.
“I’m wondering … if we’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg here,” says Rodrigo Castro-Silva, the federal prosecutor in California handling the case.
“There were a lot of kids he came in contact with here,” says Allen Klein, a former Stillwater Junior High student who filed a lawsuit in 1993 against St. Croix Catholic School and in a deposition alleged that Ebel had molested him.
Klein, a 38-year-old Plymouth resident who is publicly coming forward for the first time, suspects there may be other victims besides him.
“My desire now is to confront (Ebel) face to face and talk to him about what he did to me,” Klein says.
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EDWARD ALAN SCOTT
Interviews with more than a dozen people nationally and a review of court documents portray Ebel as an enigmatic Renaissance man who impressed people with his knowledge of subjects ranging from medical surgeries to nuclear power plant operations.
Ebel, actually a 10th-grade high school dropout from Morrison County, N.J., and using Edward Alan Scott as an alias, secured a job for the 1976-77 school year as a math teacher at the St. Croix Catholic School. The school, also known as St. Michael’s School, shared physical education and other courses with a nearby public school, Stillwater Junior High.
“He was brilliant, had a vocabulary to die for, and he was teaching a summer photography class to area kids,” recalls Brandon Crawford, then a St. Croix teacher and now the head of its middle-school program. “At the time, we were in need of a math teacher and he supplied us with what seemed excellent credentials, like his education in England.”
Known as “Mr. Scott,” Ebel had written two books under the pseudonym of Reynolds Locke. One dealt with anthrax mutation. The other, published by the now-defunct Stein & Day publishers, was called “Mayday 747” and involved the aftereffects of a jumbo jet crash. A third book, “Soldier of Eden,” a purported nonfiction account of an orphaned American boy who became an Arab freedom fighter in Libya, was published in England in 1987 under the pen name of James Congdon.
After joining the faculty, Scott quickly gravitated toward a small core group of students, school officials said. One of them was Klein, a bright seventh-grader with six siblings and the product of a troubled home. Scott befriended Klein and his family and taught him how to fly an airplane. Meanwhile, posing as Dr. Peter Martin Ebel, he was duping a pharmacy in Maplewood into filling bogus prescriptions for Valium and codeine, according to charges brought later.
Suspicions were raised at both schools when the nurse at Stillwater Junior High received a note through Scott from a Dr. Ebel asking that Klein be excused from taking a shower because he had been diagnosed with scoliosis.
Don Hovland and Steven Studer, then principal and assistant principal at Stillwater Junior High School, and Sister Kathleen Foley, then principal at St. Croix, denied the request and confronted Scott about his credentials near the end of the 1976-77 school year.
A short time later, Ebel took Klein to England on a supposed trip to treat him with growth hormone drugs not available in this country, according to Klein and others.
Klein was in fact among three boys taken to England with their parents’ permission, all of whom “returned with drug dependency problems,” according to a Maplewood police incident report. The children, according to the report, refused to talk with authorities about the trips or their relationship with Ebel.
Officials at both schools compared notes and secured copies of bogus drug prescriptions Ebel had obtained for Klein’s mother and others and as well as for himself, according to court records.
Scott was booted from the school after one year on the job and subsequently charged in Ramsey County District Court on June 10, 1979, with two felony counts in the drug case.
A Stillwater family that had rented an apartment to Ebel posted $500 bail on his behalf. He left town during a pretrial hearing in early 1980, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.
His fugitive status ignited more suspicions about his relationships with Klein and a handful of other students. During one of his trips to England, he had brought back with him a boy. The boy, Crawford learned years later, committed suicide after returning to England.
“I guess we didn’t know much about these things back then, and in hindsight there were red flags,” Crawford said last week after learning of Ebel’s arrest in September. “But there was nothing blatant. The parents trusted this man. The kids never told us what if anything happened.
“There was nothing we could get our hands on.”
U.S. Customs Service agent Randy Karavanich was ready when Swissair Flight 106 landed at Tom Bradley International terminal in Los Angeles on Sept. 7, 2001. Ebel was on board and, because of a tip from officials at Gables Academy in Stone Mountain, Ga., he was suspected of being engaged in child pornography or molestation.
Ebel, who claimed to be a researcher for a nonprofit group in Albania, had approached the school three years earlier and persuaded it to invest in an exchange program and a school to be built on the strikingly beautiful shores of the Adriatic Sea. In return, Ebel’s adopted son, a 13-year-old, received English language classes at the academy.
But the therapist wife of James Meffen III, the school’s headmaster, became concerned after traveling to Albania and uncovering what she considered a disturbingly close relationship between Ebel and several boys.
A check of Ebel’s criminal background by the Customs Service disclosed the 1980 warrant from Minnesota as well as an arrest in 1968 by Scotland Yard police in England for an “indecent assault” on a minor under 16. Ebel was put on three years’ probation for that incident.
Karavanich was surprised to find Ebel in the company of three boys from Albania, including an 8-year-old suffering from what was later diagnosed as a genetic blindness disorder that could only be corrected in the United States.
Ebel was allowed to leave after airport authorities seized a laptop computer, a digital camera and several computer disks in Ebel’s belongings.
Chandice Covington, a professor of nursing at UCLA and a medical researcher who had befriended Ebel after learning about his alleged research into the development of Albanian males and the nutritional impact of iodine deficiency, said, “I was highly suspicious at that point, and the bells started going off in my head.”
It took three weeks for authorities to discover digital and hard-copy images of naked boys masturbating each other and other pictures that had nothing to do with the research. Meanwhile, Covington, who had offered her Westwood home to Ebel, contacted Los Angeles police after she found the kids one morning tearing up sexually explicit pictures of themselves and flushing them down her bathroom toilet.
Ebel was arrested, and the boys, one of whom was suffering from sexually transmitted warts on his face, were reunited with their families in Albania. Ebel pleaded guilty to one count of manufacture of child pornography and is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 19 in Los Angeles. The blind boy is allowed to return periodically to undergo a series of surgeries to restore his eyesight, Covington said.
Officials in Minnesota are not sure whether Ebel will be extradited to face the outstanding charges.
“To be frank, the charges here are peanuts compared to what he is facing in California,” said James Konen, an assistant Ramsey County attorney who initially handled the drug-related case. “To my knowledge, we never received any information about (suspected child molestation).”
Like many others, Covington expressed surprise at the Minnesota connection, but not at the nature of the arrest.
”Who knows how many victims there are out there?” she says. “He certainly duped a lot of people along the way. But he is living proof that pedophiles don’t come in black and white. He’s a brilliant man who did try to help out some kids, like the blind boy. But he is also a sick and evil man.”
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TIMELINE: PETER MARTIN EBEL
1968: Peter Martin Ebel is convicted in London for indecently assaulting a minor younger than 16.
1976: St. Croix Catholic School in Stillwater hires Edward Alan Scott — one of several aliases linked to Ebel — as a math teacher. The school also shares physical education and other courses with a nearby public school, Stillwater Junior High School.
Summer 1977: School officials find his credentials fraudulent and terminate him.
1978: Ebel reportedly returns to the United States after a trip to England, this time posing as a doctor working for the “Nuclear Regulatory Agency.”
1979: School officials suspect Scott is posing as “Dr. Ebel.”
June 10, 1979: Ebel is charged with two felony counts of filling out drug prescriptions.
Jan. 16, 1980: He fails to appear for a pretrial hearing.
1980-99: Authorities have no idea of his whereabouts.
1999-2001: Ebel, claiming that he heads an Albanian-based nonprofit organization and conducting a growth development research project on Albanian males, makes contact with a private boys academy in Georgia. He persuades school officials to build an exchange program in Albania.
Sept. 7, 2001: Ebel is detained in Los Angeles in the company of three Albanian boys and is released after his laptop computer and several CD-ROM disks are confiscated pending a forensic examination.
Sept. 10, 2001: U.S. Customs Service agent Leo Lamas uncovers several images of the genitals of several naked prepubescent boys, including one of the boys who accompanied Ebel on the trip. Ebel asserts the pictures are part of his research.
Sept. 20, 2001: Dr. Laura Ticson of the Vulnerable Child and Sexual Assault Center in Los Angeles says the images are undoubtedly child pornography.
Sept. 28, 2001: Ebel is arrested and charged with possession and manufacture of child porn.
June 10, 2002: Ebel pleads guilty to one count of manufacture of child pornography.
Aug. 19, 2002: Ebel is to be sentenced.
About six years ago, more than half a dozen families in Buenos Aires accused a preschool music teacher of molesting their children. In 2010, the teacher, Marcelo Fabián Pecollo, was sentenced to 30 years in prison on charges of sexually abusing five of the children, ages 3 to 5.
But four years later, his sentence was reduced, and he was released from prison, local Argentine media outlets reported. He joined a local orchestra group as a trumpeter.
In late October, Pecollo, 42, was playing the trumpet mid-concert in a church in the suburb of Morón when a mob of angry parents stormed in.
“There is a pedophile and a rapist in the church and he is playing in this orchestra!” they yelled, according to witnesses in the church that day, Oct. 30.
He tried to run away, escaping through a door behind the church’s altar, but they blocked him in a passageway, beating him and thrusting him against the wall until he bled from the mouth. Some witnesses claimed he was even struck with his own trumpet, AFP reported.
Pecollo was hospitalized for grave injuries — later falling into a coma — and died last week, Argentine police confirmed to The Washington Post. The priest in the church that day, Jorge Oesterheld, told local media outlets the attackers were outraged parents of children who attended the nearby preschool where Pecollo used to teach music classes.
“I think they came to kill him,” Oesterheld told one television station. “If there hadn’t been people that defended him, and that left injured for defending him, they would have killed him there, behind the altar.”
Authorities arrived at the scene — as the police station is only a block away from the church — but the crowd of assailants had already left the area. Police continue to investigate and have not yet arrested any people in connection to the beatings. Upon Pecollo’s death, the case’s category was changed from “injuries” to “homicide.” The autopsy results had not yet been released by mid-Wednesday, Argentine police said.
When they arrived at the church, the group of demonstrators hung posters on church property and wore T-shirts with the words, “With the children, no!” a rallying phrase used by local residents to protest Pecollo’s actions and his shortened prison sentence.
By the time the priest reached Pecollo, the attackers had already left. Oesterheld stayed with the bruised, injured man until the police and ambulance arrived, he said. Pecollo has been playing as a member of the orchestra since late last year as a substitute, and earned a position in May, local media outlet Infobae reported. A member of the group, who also witnessed the attack, told Infobae the orchestra members did not know about Pecollo’s criminal record.
The priest publicly condemned the beating, saying the parents “took justice into their own hands, but it was revenge, it was murder.”
“The boys not only suffered the abuse but now have their parents involved in a suspicion of murder,” he added. “Really, if we think about those kids, it’s a nightmare.”
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The sex abuse allegations against Pecollo first came to light in 2007, when a mother complained that her 4-year-old son had been abused by his music teacher, Pecollo. Six other cases were reported to the authorities, and the court recognized five of the seven cases in the trial. According to complaints from several parents, the teacher organized a game for his class called “al que le toca, le toca,” which translates roughly to “whoever’s turn it is gets touched.” On other occasions, boys in the class reported the teacher would lower his pants in front of the students and inappropriately touched some of the boys.
At one point, when Pecollo was under house arrest before being convicted and sentenced, a group of parents burned his house in anger.
Some Argentines tweeted and posted on Facebook in solidarity with the parents in recent days, applauding their attempts to seek justice. Others reluctantly admitted they would likely do the same, if they were in the parents’ positions.
“Justice does not work like this, but if they touched my daughter I think I would have done the same thing,” one father wrote.
Still, scores of Twitter users expressed outrage and shame at the fatal beating. A lawyer who had represented the families in the initial child sex abuse cases spoke out to local journalists and on Facebook, scolding the actions of the attackers, “as a citizen and man of law.”
“Having been a lawyer for one of his victims, I have to reproach that despicable attitude that I will never share,” he wrote. “When justice determines and resolves something, like it or not, it should be respected.”
Those who knew Pecollo wrote of their grief and anger following his death.
“You have always been respectful and you have taught us values,” one woman wrote. “I would love to come back and give you a big hug.”
As authorities continue to investigate the fatal beating of the musician, they are left with difficulties gathering evidence, Infobae reported. Pecollo’s trumpet, for example, is nowhere to be found.
Victims of female genital mutilation experience multiple short-term and long-term health and psychological risks. The practice causes excessive bleeding, infections, painful urination, keloids, trauma and childbirth problems.
There is, however, hope for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) victims in Kenya after clitoral reconstructive surgery was introduced in the country last week.
Over 45 victims of FGM aged between 16 and 68 years have undergone the procedure at Mama Lucy and the Karen hospitals. The procedure is aimed at restoring the dignity and sexuality of the victims whose clitoris have been mutilated resulting in painful side effects and abnormalities in sexual function.
Dr Marci Bowers, a gynaecology surgeon at Clitoraid, a US-based non-profit organisation, FGM takes away the identity of women and a part of them. The surgery aims at enabling them feel whole again.
Clitoraid, working in collaboration with Kenyan non-governmental organisation, Garana and Dr Abdullahi Adan, a plastic reconstructive surgeon, introduced Clitoral restorative surgery in the country.
The clitoris is one of the parts of the female anatomy that’s adversely affected during FGM. It affects sexuality of women and even causes problems in marriages. “The physiology of the clitoris is underestimated.
It is at least 11 cms in an average woman, which means even in the worst FGM cases less than five per cent is removed. We are bringing back the remaining part of clitoris,” says Bowers.
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According to Adan, the main body of the clitoris is buried beneath the genitalia. What is normally cut during FGM is the tip. During the procedure the surgeon dissects the area removing the scar tissue.
This allows it to come to the surface and put it in place where it can be contacted sexually. Clitoroplasty, as the procedure is referred to, was developed by French urologist Dr Pierre Foldes. It has achieved a high-level of effectiveness in the US and Burkina Faso where it was introduced first.
“Clitoraid was getting a lot of enquiries about clitoral reconstructive surgery. Some women from Kenya actually flew all the way to California,” says Adan. There has been a great degree of effectiveness of the Clitoroplasty technique.
“According to a study of more than 3,000 patients half of them are able to get an orgasm – some for the first time in their lives. More than 90 per cent report that their function in sex is better,” says Dr Bowers.
A majority of those that have undergone the procedure have regained their sexual sensitivity. “Most importantly, most of them feel a sense of completeness because something that was taken away from them has been brought back.
This is something that has brought problems in marriages. It may underestimate but it’s a big thing for a woman,” says Adan. A total of 16 doctors in Kenya have received training on the procedure to enable more victims of the FGM benefit.
Two obstetricians in Mama Lucy, one urologist and four plastic surgeons have been trained. Even with the high success rate, Bowers is quick to add that the perfect solution to the problem is to put an end to FGM.
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