Heavy Petting

When a man molests a boy, the pederast is usually fired from his job. When a man molests a handicapped boy, the pederast is usually run out of town or beaten to death in prison. When a man molests a handicapped boy under the guise of giving him medical treatment, well, even the Catholic Church wouldn't likely protect his sorry ass.

But when a man sexually molests a handicapped boy under the guise of giving him medical treatment . . . he gets a promotion? That's how Orange County treated Kevin Duane Van Otterloo. On Oct. 19, 2000, Van Otterloo was charged with felony oral copulation and sexual molestation against a minor while serving as a supervising nurse at Orange County Juvenile Hall the summer before. Van Otterloo eventually agreed to a deal: the district attorney's office dropped the felonies and Van Otterloo pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of lewd conduct.

Nurses at Juvie are employed by the county's Health Care Agency (HCA), which kept Van Otterloo on the county payroll as he faced the charges and then, three months after he pleaded guilty, promoted him to research analyst for the agency. In October 2002, the HCA transferred Van Otterloo to its embattled Animal Care Services (ACS) division, where he remains a researcher.

A worker at the county's human resources department, citing county policy, told the Weekly that a prior child-molestation conviction “wouldn't be an issue” for those seeking to work for the county as long as said molester wasn't working with kiddies. “They could work at anything that doesn't involve children,” said the unidentified woman. “Like a clerical job—or an animal shelter.”

That policy infuriates local animal-rights advocates who want Van Otterloo out. They're questioning why a man with no prior animal-shelter experience and a previous child-molestation conviction continues to earn $70,000 per year so that he can, according to county documents, research and prepare grants “to subsidize future purchase of alternative-fuel vehicles” and for “potential ACS funding sources.”

“I'm disgusted that we can't hire kennel help or get new facilities, but we can hire someone to research fuel,” fumes Maria Dales, a longtime shelter critic who chaired its citizen-advisory board in 2002. “I would expect better oversight from the Health Care Agency.”

“You have someone with no shelter experience who leapfrogs people with more than a decade of experience for a management position. It's just ridiculous,” adds Robert Newman, who chaired the Animal Control Advisory Board last year. “It's unfortunate that whoever is responsible for making those decisions shows a complete disregard for the animals entrusted to the shelters—and children, for that matter. Junior scouts do an entire internship [at the animal shelter].”

The majority of Van Otterloo's criminal file remains sealed, but documents obtained by the Weekly suggest HCA officials have never particularly cared that Van Otterloo effectively admitted to the more-serious felony charges he originally faced after his initial court hearing. His admission appears as part of a report prepared by the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN), the agency that accredits state nurses. On July 22, 2001, the board revoked Van Otterloo's nursing license because of his conviction. In a filing with the state attorney general, the BRN noted that Van Otterloo “admits the truth of each and every charge and allegation” contained in a February 2001 accusation written by Ruth Ann Terry, executive officer of the board.

Terry's accusation begins by disclosing that the 17-year-old victim, identified as Robert W., “was brought to Orange County Juvenile Hall for medical treatments for his cystic fibrosis” on Aug. 8, 2000. That day, Van Otterloo took the victim into a medical examination room “where [Van Otterloo] pulled Robert W.'s pants down and masturbated Robert W. When it was over, [Van Otterloo] said to Robert W., 'I hope you know I love you and wouldn't do anything to hurt you.'”

A week later, according to Terry's report, Robert W. returned to Juvenile Hall for further cystic fibrosis treatments. But when the time came for his treatment, “Robert W. refused to go because he did not want to see [Van Otterloo] again.” Guards at Juvenile Hall ignored the teenager's pleas and forced him into the medical examination room with Van Otterloo, where the nurse proceeded to rub “the outside of [Robert W.'s] pants in the groin area.” Van Otterloo then pulled down the boy's pants and “this time orally copulated Robert W.”

Terry's accusation also cites a taped telephone conversation between Van Otterloo and Robert W. in which Van Otterloo made “several incriminating statements including: “Can't you just let it go?” “Heavy stuff like this needs to be in person.” And “[It was] a huge mistake; good Lord, what happened?”

But for Terry, the final straw came a couple of weeks later, when Van Otterloo wrote to Robert W.:

You've got everything it takes you're handsome, you've got a killer body[smiley face], beautiful eyes, a perfect . . . but more important, you're kind, smart, funny sincere, charming, loving, considerate, giving, and devoted…. No I don't lean that way. I just don't have many hang-ups. I'm pretty free thinking. Hope to hear from you soon, I love you very much….Kevin . . . p.s. Don't tell me I don't know anything about you. How many people know where your freckles are?

“[Van Otterloo] is subject to disciplinary action,” wrote Terry, “in that [Van Otterloo] committed gross negligence and displayed incompetence in his treatment of patient Robert W.”

HCA officials removed Van Otterloo from his nursing position after the BRN's decision—they had to. But HCA officials did not seem to care about his crime or Robert W. when tipped off by its own employees, according a confidential, undated report prepared by the HCA's Juvenile Health Services division. A nurse at Los Pinos Conservation Camp, where Robert W. stayed, testified in the report that “no one from HCA was interested in what I witnessed. It made me sick to see minor . . . laying in a fetal position on the floor, withdrawn—he told me that Kevin told him not to talk to me or share any problem with me. Meanwhile, management at Juv. Hall medical unit where [sic] collecting $ for Kevin—showing no concern for minor. I never recieved [sic] any support from management, neither did the minor involved,” the nurse concluded. “We are probably both scarred to this day.”


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