The agonized father of a student in Caracas, Venezuela, said his son, like many others, would rather not find out, but the boy cannot forget one fact. "He ate the cookies, too," said the father, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his son's identity. "Everyone on those trips did."
There were decades of missed opportunities to expose Vahey. An early California sex-abuse conviction didn't prevent him taking a series of jobs working with children. Colleagues and supervisors failed to question why he was so often with boys overnight. And at least twice, boys fell mysteriously ill while under his care and there was no investigation into Vahey's role.
In 1969, Vahey, the son of a decorated World War II pilot, was arrested on child sexual abuse charges after police said he pinched the penises of eight boys, ages 7 to 9, at an Orange County high school where he gave swimming lessons.
Vahey, then 20, told authorities he had started touching boys without their consent at age 14, when he fondled a sleeping teen on a Boy Scout camping trip. He said he touched the genitals or anuses of sleeping boys four more times before the arrest.
The psychiatrist diagnosed Vahey with an "inadequate personality," but added that the disorder did not predispose him to sexual offenses dangerous to others. The court even allowed Vahey to start work as a public school teacher's aide after his arrest.
Vahey pleaded guilty to a single charge of lewd and lascivious behavior. He received a 90-day jail sentence and five years' probation, with a condition that he should be supervised in the company of males younger than 16 during that time. After two years on probation, he was allowed to leave the country unsupervised following college graduation in 1972.