CLEVELAND - The quiet, colorful streets of fall in small town northern Ohio can be so serene. The leaves lying lazily along sidewalks. Halloween decorations displayed on lawns.
But a crime scarier than any ghost or goblin shattered autumn's laid-back attitude in Lorain County 29 years ago. A 33-year-old boy scout leader, Curtis Whiton, took members of his pack to a house of horrors, as described in court documents. Police said that little boys trusted Whiton, who raped and sodomized them.
Amherst retired police chief Lonnie Dillon was a detective in September 1983. He led the sex abuse investigation of Curtis Whiton. The case involved more than 30 boys and the accusations didn't surprise Dillon. Dillon attended high school with Whiton.
"He was very different, he stood out from pretty much everybody else," Dillon said.
Whiton led cub scouts troops in Elyria. Chief Dillon became involved in the case because Whiton brought the scouts to his house on Tenney Street in Amherst. Inside, Dillon found a mattress, pornographic material and a television.
" Whiton's family owned the home, but it wasn't his as I recall. It was not occupied," noted Dillon.
But according to police documents, one of Whiton's brothers claimed he didn't know anything about his brother's activities and the family didn't get along well. Regardless of what Whiton's family did or didn't know, Chief Dillon said he believed Whiton perfectly matched the profile of a pedophile.
"When Elyria police officers arrested him and asked me to follow up, I knew what the complaint was going to be," Dillon explained.
Generations of families live in the neighborhood. Some remember seeing young boys around the house but were surprised to learn of what went on inside. One resident told NewsChannel5 that back then (29 years ago), these types of things were rare. Now a days, she said she's not surprised. Others noted to police that Whiton seemed anxious, disheveled and always appeared to wear the same clothes.
So did residents miss the signs of the sadistic behavior the boys suffered? Chief Dillon doesn't think so, but said awareness is key to stopping predators.
"Be very active in your child's life and make sure you know who they are running around with," cautioned Dillon.