In His Suicide Video, a Secret That Upends an Alaska Town

Rick Martin reveals beloved school superintendent had abused him
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 16, 2018 7:51 AM CDT
Updated Apr 21, 2018 12:20 PM CDT
In His Suicide Video, a Secret That Upends an Alaska Town
This undated photo provided by Rene Martin shows Rick Martin, who recorded a video before he died by suicide alleging abuse by a former school superintendent, Karl Ward, in the small community of Haines, Alaska.   (Courtesy of Rene Martin via AP)

Karl Ward is long dead, but some say the once-revered school superintendent in a small Alaska fishing town was not the benevolent educator worthy of having the high school gym named in his honor. A cellphone video made by a man before he died by suicide last month has given voice to at least four other men, all of whom say they were sexually abused decades ago by Ward, confirming publicly whispers that had long existed quietly. Rick Martin, who the Washington Post reports had an incurable liver disease, graphically explained on the video what he said Ward had done to him; the Chilkat Valley News reports he says he was raped. The paper's Kyle Clayton used yearbooks and phone calls to get four other men to go on record with their own decades-old claims.

Haines Police Chief Heath Scott said he has no reason to doubt the allegations, but there's nothing to investigate, nor reason to suspect any sort of cover-up. Ward worked in the school district for more than 20 years, including as superintendent in the 1960s and '70s, according to the Valley News; he died in 1997. The school board issued a public apology, saying the district must learn from this "heartbreaking" situation. The plaque outside the gym bearing Ward's name has been removed, though a decision remained on whether to rename the facility, reports the AP. His widow is in an assisted living facility, and the facility's nurse administrator said the woman asked her to tell people that she is "in shock and she's in mourning for the life she thought she had." Haines, a fishing and tourist community of about 1,740, is located about 80 air miles northwest of Juneau.

(More sexual abuse stories.)

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