A former Boy Scouts of America leader openly admitted on social media to molesting children in Ohio. However, his victims may have a tough time bringing him to justice for his crimes.
On July 12, former Ohio Boy Scout leader Bill McKell, a pastor and teacher in Chillicothe, posted a letter on Facebook stating, “My name is Bill McKell and I am a child molester." Further in the letter McKell said he had inappropriate contact with young men throughout his teens, 20’s, and early 30’s, notably during his time as a leader in the Boy Scouts of America in the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s.
McKell’s posted his letter to social media in response to a 14-page report released by the Chillicothe Police detailing years of sexual abuse allegations against the former Scouting leader. In the report, twelve alleged victims shared their testimonies of abuse by McKell, which included fondling, molestation, and other heinous forms of abuse.
Additionally, the report showed that several adults knew about the allegations against McKell and failed to report the information to local law enforcement. These adults included church pastors, Scout leaders, teachers, and a principal.
“It was criminal to know that a child or children are at risk of this and to keep your silence,” attorney Tim Kosnoff told 10 WBNS. “That’s not a moral failing in my mind. I mean, that’s a criminal failure.”
Kosnoff is one of the leading attorneys and founders of Abused in Scouting, a legal movement representing victims of Scout leader abuse. Through Abused in Scouting, Kosnoff represents one of McKell’s alleged victims, who claims he was abused in the 1970’s.
“The important thing about this particular client is that he told, he told at the time,” Kosnoff said. “And so the individuals who were at the Presbyterian church there in Chillicothe knew, they absolutely knew, but they never reported it to the police, and McKell was never even dealt with by the organization.”
While the post has since been deleted from social media, a number of McKell’s alleged victims have come forward to share their stories and hold the former Scout leader accountable for his actions.
Eric Palmer, one of McKell’s alleged victims included in the original Chillicothe Police report, spoke with local media about his abuse by McKell on a Scouting trip to Chief Logan Reservation in the 1980’s. A game of playful wrestling quickly turned into abuse when McKell pinned Palmer down and started to molest him.
“He asked me not to tell anybody about what had happened when we were out there, and so I didn’t,” Palmer said. “I was afraid to tell anybody, yeah, I didn’t tell anybody my entire childhood.”
Despite the Chillicothe Police report and the increasing testimonies from victims, experts say it is unlikely McKell will be charged for his crimes. According to Ross County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Marks, McKell’s alleged crimes would likely be considered as gross sexual imposition. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations to bring charges for that offense is 20 years, a deadline that expired decades ago for the majority of McKell’s claimed victims.
“The odds are stacked against [state level criminal charges],” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “There may be other charges, maybe at the federal level that could be brought, and that’s being researched, but, here in Ohio, that statute of limitations is a tremendous barrier, and it’s wrong. We shouldn’t let somebody like this run out the clock on justice.”
Ohio’s statute of limitations for civil cases of sexual abuse expires at 30 years old, a deadline that advocates for sexual abuse victims say aids in the perpetuation of child abuse.
“Your state of Ohio is complicit in this,” Kosnoff said. “It is one of the most predator-friendly states in the country. That’s right. And where do you think sex predators go? They go to places where they’ll be protected. And one of those places is the state of Ohio.”
The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2020 amid thousands of lawsuits brought against them, each alleging Scouting leaders and volunteers sexually abused children in the Scouts. Now, survivors of Scouting abuse only have until Nov. 16 to file any civil claims of abuse to be eligible for compensation. Kosnoff encourages anyone seeking compensation for abuse in the Boy Scouts to visit abusedinscouting.com.
“The Boy Scouts of America stole their innocence, and now they’re stealing from them the opportunity to pursue justice when they’re ready, on their own timeline, because they’ve set up through this bankruptcy a claims deadline of Nov. 16, and that’s a firm deadline,” Kosnoff said. “If you don’t come forward and file your proof of claim by Nov. 16, you’ll be barred forever from ever pursuing justice for what was done to you as a child.”