COLUMBUS, Ohio — Eric Palmer says he has known accused child molester William McKell for as long as he can remember.
His parents went to high school with him, and the families attended the same church.
But it was McKell’s association with the Boy Scouts of America that led to a fateful crossing of paths back in the early 1980s.
At the time, McKell was a Boy Scout leader for a local Chillicothe troop. And while Palmer was not in that troop, he went along with McKell for a fall trip to Chief Logan Reservation, after the summer camps were over for the season.
That’s when Palmer said what started as playful wrestling crossed the line.
“He kind of overpowered me and ended up holding me down on the sofa that was on the front porch and again started to molest me,” Palmer said. “He asked me not to tell anybody about what had happened when we were out there, and so I didn’t. I was afraid to tell anybody, yeah, I didn’t tell anybody my entire childhood.”
In fact, Palmer said, on a visit home during his first year of college, McKell called his parents’ house to thank him for not telling anyone. Palmer said it would still be many years later, in 2009, when he finally told his wife. He then shared what happened with close friends and eventually law enforcement.
His story was included in a 14-page Chillicothe Police supplemental narrative detailing years of allegations, dating back to the 1980s and 1990s, involving several alleged victims.
That report shows several adults, including fellow Scout leaders, church pastors, teachers, a principal, and more, knew about or had heard about the allegations but failed to report that information to law enforcement.
“It was criminal to know that a child or children are at risk of this and to keep your silence,” attorney Tim Kosnoff said. “That’s not a moral failing in my mind. I mean, that’s a criminal failure.”
Kosnoff is a founding member of one of three law firms that created AbusedInScouting.com, which is the largest group representing victims of Scout leader abuse.
He is representing one of McKell’s alleged victims, who says he was abused in the mid-1970s.
“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.”
McKell would reportedly go on to abuse several more boys for the next two decades.
In a Facebook post from McKell this past weekend, the former Horizon CEO admitted to the abuse, writing, “I am a child molester.”
That post, confirmed by his wife and father to 10TV, also said: “I have something to admit. During my late teens, twenties and early thirties, I had inappropriate contact with a number of young men.”
McKell has not responded to 10TV’s inquiries for comment. His attorney, Steve Nolder, told 10TV again on Friday that he would have no comment unless his client is charged.
But that is unlikely to happen in Ohio. McKell’s alleged crimes would likely fall under the charge of gross sexual imposition, according to Ross County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Marks. The statute to bring charges for that offense is 20 years, which expired many years ago for many if not all of McKell’s reported victims.
But both Marks and Vinton County Prosecutor Trecia Kimes-Brown confirm they have the CPD file and are looking into the case. That narrative was passed along to the U.S. Attorney’s Office as well.
Marks says he is aware that more potential victims have reached out to Chillicothe police since the recent report came to light. Kimes-Brown also says someone has reached out to her office as well. Now she will be getting together with those involved to determine whether one investigator will be assigned to the case or whether the duties will be separated by county.
Meanwhile, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost admits that criminal charges on the state level are unlikely.
“The odds are stacked against it,” he 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.”
He says that’s why he is pushing for the criminal statute of limitations on rape in Ohio to be eliminated. He stops short of advocating for the same on the civil level, however.
Ohio’s civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse expires at age 30.
“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.”
And Kosnoff points out that the clock is ticking for victims of Scouting abuse. The Boy Scouts of America filed for federal bankruptcy protection in February 2020. A court ruling now means any claims of abuse must be filed by Nov. 16 in order to be eligible for compensation.
“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.”
He is encouraging anyone seeking compensation to visit abusedinscouting.com.
Meanwhile, 10TV learned new information from the Boy Scouts of America on Friday. Previously, BSA confirmed that McKell was placed into its database more than 25 years ago following allegations of inappropriate behavior. That barred him from any future Scouting activities.
On Friday, BSA released the following statement:
The Boy Scouts of America directed reports of Mr. McKell’s misconduct to Ross County and Scioto County law enforcement authorities.
10TV reached out to both the Ross County Sheriff’s Office and Scioto County Sheriff’s Office for more information on this but is still waiting for a response.
“I just hope that folks continue to push the Ohio elected leaders, the attorney general, the governor and the state legislators to do something to change the statute of limitations in Ohio,” Palmer said. “That is a fear I still have, that this story will be forgotten. It will be news this week or last week, and there won’t be that bigger resolution to it. And, for me, that bigger resolution is a more systemic, fundamental change in our legal system.”
And while Palmer says there is a higher level of justice for his accused abuser, he will still seek compensation from BSA.
“For me, it is not about the money,” he said. “I’m sure, if the Boy Scouts are going to be paying everybody who’s a victim and who files their claim in time, they should pay me that because they failed all of these kids, and they failed me. But it’s not about the money, it’s not about the money.”