Seeds of Hate by Robyn Walters and Peyton Abbott

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Edited by Alice Martin SEEDS OF HATE Copyright Š 2017 Robyn Walters & Peyton Abbott All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher. This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published by Gelan an imprint of BHC Press Library of Congress Control Number: 2017936833 ISBN: 978-1-946848-84-0 Softcover edition ISBN: 978-1-946848-02-4 Visit the publisher at: www.bhcpress.com Also available in softcover and ebook




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’ve been arrested,” the man said in a strained whisper. “Please, Mr. Kane, I need your help.” Pressing the telephone receiver close to my ear, I asked, “Who is this?” “Wilhelm Kastner.” Controlled breaths filled my earpiece as he tried to stay calm. “I’m at the county jail now.” Looking at my watch and desk calendar, I considered the time. I’d promised my wife I’d be home for dinner. Can it be any day but Friday? I grabbed my legal pad and pen. “What’s the charge?” Seconds passed in silence. “Hello?” His voice dropped to near inaudible. “Touching the children in my fourth-grade class.” Plural? The pen I’d been rolling in my fingers flicked across the desk and hit the wall. Every jail has its snitches who take advantage of the just incarcerated for their own gain. Sexual assault on one child might get him beaten or killed. “Don’t speak to anyone. I’ll be right over.” 7


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From my law office in downtown, it took me ten minutes to walk to the county jail. As I strode the few blocks to the red brick building, inhaling briny, fish-scented ocean air, I contemplated our brief conversation. Child molestation—a charge that taunts the success of even the most seasoned defense attorneys. My wife and I had four girls and a fifth child on the way. We had just moved to a new house. Mundane drunk driving offenses dominated my caseload. This could be a welcome change. The heels of my shoes rapped on pavement as the concrete jungle coughed up several transients passed out in darkened doorways. A lady dressed too scantily for legitimate business purposes ducked in to an alley and out of sight. As I raced up the jail house steps, my toe caught a rise on the landing. My palm slammed against the door jamb just in time to save my face. Pushing open the glass doors of the lobby, I met a heavy mix of bleach and Pine-Sol that stung my nose and burned my eyes. I pitied the janitors who daily cleaned up vomit dumped from drunken mouths. No amount of mopping could erase the degradations of humanity from the linoleum floors. I ducked a few more door jambs and walked into the interview room. Seafoam green walls and floor clashed with bright orange plastic chairs and faux mahogany wood tables. A short Plexiglas divider separated inmates from visitors. No windows and poor ventilation meant the antiseptic puke smell stayed. When Mr. Kastner arrived, his five-foot-seven-inch, stocky frame stood rigid. He held his chin high and winced as the jailer unlocked the cuffs and raked them over his hands. Wilhelm sat down and rubbed the burn from his wrists. “Thank you for getting here so fast.�

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His German accent intrigued me. Short blond-gray buzz cut, narrow hazel eyes and a hardcore demeanor did not create the impression of a Pied Piper who molested his students. Though anxious to hear Kastner’s story, I wouldn’t do it at the jail. Phone calls and visitor contacts are often recorded. We exchanged no pleasantries as we discussed bailing him out. If that would be possible. Conviction rates in these cases came in around ninety-five percent. I had my work cut out for me. “We need to find out if bail has been set,” I said. I figured we’d be at the quarter million mark. Wringing his hands, he asked, “Will I be able to go home?” “Let’s wait and see what the judge ordered.” I held no hope that would happen. Mr. Kastner waited in the interview room as I made my way to the clerk’s office. A Pepto-Bismol pink, funky-scented hallway further assaulted my senses. Peering from behind bulletproof glass, the woman at the desk flicked her eyes between me and the court documents. “This can’t be right,” she said. Leaning into the speak-through, I asked, “How much?” “$25,000,” she said as she grabbed for her glasses. Holy cow. I kept my cool. “Judge signed it?” Scanning the papers, she shrugged. “Yes, sir.” “We’ll take it, thank you.” Exhaling a sigh of relief, I returned to the interview room. When I broke the good news, Wilhelm pushed himself and his chair back, raking the metal feet on the floor. His body slumped forward as he rested his elbows on his knees and looked up at me. “I can’t afford that, Mr. Kane. I don’t have that kind of money.” Having never been in trouble before, Wilhelm didn’t know how the system worked. Ten percent is all that is required. 9


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“You need only come up with $2,500, Mr. Kastner.” His mouth dropped open. “That is our life savings.” Believing the jail had to be short staffed and over populated that day, I told Wilhelm, “That’s incredibly low.” Concerned that any one in his situation could be suicidal, I suggested to the jail commander that he put Mr. Kastner on watch while he waited for bail. His wife showed up within an hour to take him home. “Meet me at my office tomorrow morning at nine,” I said as I handed him my business card. By the time I got back to my office, the sun had set and the street lights flickered as they warmed. My secretary prepared to lock up. “Don’t bother, Marcy. I’ll be here for a while.” Always willing to help, Marcy offered, “Do you need me to stay, Mr. Kane?” “No thanks. There will be plenty to do on Monday.” She nodded and closed the door behind her. I sat down at my desk and gathered my thoughts. We had to work fast to glean information and interview witnesses before they decided that talking to the defense would be a bad idea. I also needed the police report. That would have to wait until Monday. Two hours after my pen hit the paper, my wife called. “You coming home Patrick? The roast is getting cold.” “Yes, dear. You’re not going believe what fell in my lap today.” Meg laughed. “You’re already late,” she chided. “You can tell me about it when you get home.” I looked at the clock and scribbled some final notes on my pad. A teacher arrested for touching kids made for big news. The story would appear in the local papers by morning and hit the national 10


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news shortly after that. Prosecution by the county district attorney would be swift.

UNLOCKING MY office door the next morning, I reached

down to pick up the morning newspaper. I unfolded it and glanced at the headline. My heart sank. Tucking the rag under my arm, I headed inside. Having finished six years clerking for a high-profile attorney, I had hung up my own shingle the year before on a house the size of a shoe box just blocks from city center. The hundred-year-old building stood solid encased with industrial brick and mortar. Only two rooms with a bathroom remained. The kitchen had been removed years ago to make way for office space. Wood paneling covered every wall, but the original hardwood floors endured. Meg had taken one look at the place and deemed it unfit for habitation. With cleaning gloves and bucket, she scrubbed the inside from top to bottom. Fresh paint adorned the bathroom and hand-sewn curtains hung on the windows. Meg had the interior in top shape by the time I moved in furniture. The reception room contained an eclectic mix of mismatched pieces collected from family hand-me-downs and garage sales. Just big enough for a couple of overstuffed brocade print chairs, a restored coffee table, and a halfway decent desk for Marcy. A simple, well-loved mahogany desk and rolling chair, a beat-up file cabinet, and two client seats left little room to move around my office. Meg gave the new digs her blessing. Mr. Kastner arrived on time with his wife, Liesel. An unpretentious beauty, petite with short dark hair and crystal blue eyes, her classic look reminded me of Jackie O. She wore no makeup, a simple white shift dress with matching flats. A delicate gold chain with 11


Robyn Walters with Peyton Abbott

a cross pendant hung from her neck and a thin gold wedding band adorned her ring finger. “Hello, Mr. & Mrs. Kastner. Please come in.” I ushered the Kastners to the back room. Pulling a chair from the corner to the front of my desk, I asked, “Mrs. Kastner, would you like to have a seat?” “Please call me Liesel.” The young woman reached out her hand to shake mine. She, too, had an accent. Mr. Kastner said, “And you can call me Wilhelm.” We began by sorting the facts as Wilhelm knew them. The day before, Wilhelm stood at the head of his class. Three men approached his classroom door. He smiled as they entered. “Welcome, gentlemen. Please join us.” “Wilhelm, please come to my office now.” Principal Nelson’s voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. “Let your assistant step in and see to your class.” Seeing the stricken look on Jeffrey Nelson’s face, Wilhelm’s smile wilted. A knot tightened in the pit of his stomach as they walked down the long corridor to the principal’s office. Footsteps echoed in his ears. With the office door closed, the principal dropped into his chair. His hand kneaded his brow. “What is happening?” Wilhelm paced the worn wood floor. “What have I done?” Jeffrey’s dull eyes and grim mouth scared Wilhelm. He’d never seen his friend and mentor look so defeated. The man’s voice cracked as he tried to hold back his own fear. “The worst thing that can happen to a teacher has happened to you.” The taller detective stepped toward Wilhelm and ordered him to turn around and put his hands behind his back. “You are under arrest for molesting the children in your classroom,” he said. 12


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Wilhelm’s head whirled. “What?” Handcuffs tightened around his wrists. Bitter bile rose in the back of his throat. Clenched teeth helped keep the acid tang from evacuating his mouth as the small office closed in around him. Pulling a card from his shirt pocket, the second detective read, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court.” His voice trailed. Wilhelm’s mind fogged as the detectives led him out of the building. Fellow teachers stepped outside their classroom doors, staring in disbelief. Children peeked through the windows. Wilhelm turned his head away from gawking parents who’d arrived to pick up their kids at the end of the school day. What would he say to Liesel and the children? Sitting in my office, Wilhelm put his face in his hands. “I’m completely stunned,” he wept. “I love all my kids. My classroom is a place of joy and open learning. These kids are happy and flourishing. It doesn’t make sense.” Liesel leaned over and patted her husband’s shoulder. Sad, questioning eyes stared at me. Her comfort could not quell his distress. “Did deputies conduct an evidence search of your classroom?” I asked. He nodded. “The detectives told me they would. One of them had the document in his pocket.” As deputies escorted Wilhelm to a waiting car, he saw several men milling around. Two more patrol cars arrived, just as they pulled away. “The detectives tried to talk to me in the car,” Wilhelm said, “But all I could think is I need a lawyer. I didn’t say a word.” Impressed my client had the presence of mind to keep his mouth shut during the drive to the county jail, I laid my pen down 13


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and said, “Most people don’t know when to shut up. Makes my job that much harder.” Shifting uncomfortably in his chair, Wilhelm inhaled a deep breath. “My childhood training taught me to show no fear and not to speak a word to the enemy.” Hmm. I wonder what that means. Wilhelm listened to the drone of the car’s engine while miles of gray pavement passed in empty silence. The highway dividing line became the focus. Control emotion at all costs, he willed himself. Equally to Wilhelm’s credit, he refused to speak to any of the jailers, citing his right to an attorney, as he processed through the jail’s intake. “I felt humiliated,” Wilhelm said. “They took all my clothes. They made me stand there naked and looked at every part of my body. Why? I have nothing to hide.” He described being strip-searched, fingerprinted, and given a jail issued uniform and slippers. “You might be here for quite a while,” the jailer mocked as he spat on the cell floor inches from Wilhelm’s feet. “You’re lucky you’re alone. Don’t go trying to kill yourself.” Liesel opened her clutch and took out a linen handkerchief. She dabbed her eyes and sniffed. While I felt compassion, that innocent sorrow could work favorably for our case. “Who could possibly betray me like this, Mr. Kane? Live, love, laugh, and learn are the cornerstones of my teaching philosophy. How could that be a crime?” While he waited in the jail cell, Wilhelm surveyed his surroundings. He considered a toilet and sink with running water a luxury compared to some hell holes he’d been in. Liesel listened as her husband recounted the remaining details of his incarceration. “How did you get the news, Liesel?” I asked. 14


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She smoothed her skirt and took a deep breath. “I had been standing in the kitchen when the phone rang.” She glanced at the clock. 3:45 p.m. Wilhelm should be on his way home from school by now. “Wilhelm told me I needed to stay calm.” The tone in her husband’s voice placed Liesel on high alert. Each word that followed stung. “I had no idea Wilhelm had an emergency box of cash hidden in the closet. I grabbed it.” “Good thing he did,” I said. Liesel scooped up their two children, who had been playing in the living room, and sat them in the back seat of the car. “I can’t begin to describe the stressful drive.” Liesel’s voice trembled. “I only knew Wilhelm had been arrested for touching kids in his classroom.” Wilhelm took Liesel’s hand in his and their shoulders touched as she continued. “I had no idea how to find the jail. I took the wrong exit from the freeway and twice turned down one-way streets into oncoming traffic.” I chuckled. “You didn’t get a ticket?” “No.” Liesel shook her head. A faint smile crossed her lips. “I could not let on to the children how scared I felt.” Having my own small children, I thought of Meg and what she might have done. Liesel could see Max and Karen’s wide eyes in the rearview mirror. “The kids sat whimpering in the back seat. I’m sure they sensed my fear.” I shook my head. “I can only imagine.” “I didn’t even know what making bail meant,” Liesel puzzled. “But I went through with it and brought Wilhelm home.” “Can you tell me what life is like in Sunnybrook?” “It has been a dream come true for us,” Liesel beamed, “until yesterday.” 15


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She described the little suburb as idyllic, since they moved there four years earlier. The hills surrounding their new home provided the perfect backdrop for agriculture. Avocado, orange, and lemon groves prospered in the boulder-strewn landscape, while fruit and vegetable crops flourished in the mild winters and hot summers. They had found a simple and good life. A sign at the main road entering Sunnybrook read, Welcome to Sunnybrook, a Friendly Town. “A perfect place to raise a family,” the couple chimed. The more I talked with them, the more I contemplated how this man could be accused of such heinous acts. Still, where there’s sexual smoke, there is sexual fire. It wasn’t my job to believe in his innocence. Most men in similar circumstances would plead guilty to be spared a life sentence. I figured I would charge Mr. Kastner $1,500 to hold his hand through the process: guilty pleas and relinquishment of his teaching credential in exchange for a three-to-four-year prison term. Clutching her linen handkerchief, Liesel turned to Wilhelm and swallowed hard. “Liebchen, what are we going to do?” “I don’t know Schatzi.” I sat back in my chair, “Are those nicknames?” “Schatzi is German for ‘Treasure.’” Mrs. Kastner smiled as her cheeks turned pink. Her husband followed, “Liebchen means ‘Darling.’” My gut feeling proved right. World War II ended over two decades ago, and still many had a sore spot for the Nazis. I dared not ask if they had been in Germany during the war. They looked too young. I pulled the morning newspaper from my desk drawer and handed it to Wilhelm. 16


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“What’s this?” he asked. The couple cocked their heads in the same direction. Their eyes locked on the headline. “Sunnybrook teacher accused of molesting kids,” they both read aloud. “Wilhelm Kastner, forty years old…” Their voices faltered. Liesel’s eyes filled with tears, and her husband’s mouth turned grim. “Our address and Wilhelm’s name are on the front page,” she said. “Everyone will know.” Turning and facing each other, the couple contemplated what it meant to their family to have this information broadcast to the public. Pale and despairing, Liesel’s mouth went dry, as she couldn’t find any words to describe how she felt. With the same perseverance he’d shown in the jail, Wilhelm raised his head, steadied his gaze and leaned forward. “I am innocent, Mr. Kane. My name must be cleared for me and my family.” “That’s not going to be easy,” I said. Standing up from my chair to escort them out, I took a deep breath. “We have a lot to do. Head home and try to find some sense of normalcy with your kids. I’ll get to work.” Wilhelm turned to the door and grasped my hand. “Thank you, Mr. Kane.” After the Kastners left, I perused the newspaper and took notes. The list of accusers had to be growing.

MY FATHER had been a reluctant policeman. Growing up

during the Depression, he donned his uniform every day to keep the peace in the Bronx. Good for his gentle soul, he directed traffic. After a long day’s work, he’d come home, climb to the roof of our apartment building, and smoke a cigar. Then he’d come in, change from his uniform, and while our mother prepared dinner, he’d read 17


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the newspaper. We loved our father deeply and learned that you did what you had to do to provide for your family.

NOT OFTEN did I beat Marcy to the office, but Monday

morning, I wanted an early start. It would be the first of many long days and sleep-deprived nights. The newspapers showed no mercy, as the district attorney leaked to reporters the night before that he had twenty accusers lined up to testify against Wilhelm. “Grab your steno pad, Marcy,” I instructed as she walked through the door. She snatched up pencil and paper and began writing as I rattled off the drawbacks in Wilhelm’s case. “Mr. Kane.” Her brow furrowed as she sat frowning at the newspaper. “Look at that headline. Almost two dozen kids are saying Mr. Kastner touched them.” I stopped writing notes and looked up from my pad. “And their parents want Wilhelm fired and imprisoned.” Her eyes widened. “Do you think he did it?” “He’s got to be guilty of something.” I nodded. “To what degree, I don’t know.” Twenty accusers. That’s a doozy. We didn’t have much time. “Get a list of all the students in Wilhelm’s class and the teachers he worked with. I want to meet with the principal ASAP.” “What about a psychiatrist?” queried Marcy. “Good thought! Get me the guy the District Attorney uses.” “I’m on it, Mr. Kane.”

AT OUR next meeting, Liesel trembled as she shook my hand.

Her tired, red eyes were still moist from crying. 18


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Wilhelm clenched his jaw as he drew in a fatigued breath. “Mr. Kane, it feels like the whole town is against us.” Word of Wilhelm’s arrest spread like burning embers hitting dry timber through the friendly town. “Nothing is normal,” Liesel said with despair. “We are being shunned by those who we thought were our friends.” Where once his students clamored to walk with him to school, fighting over who would hold his hand or carry his book bag, now the children avoided walking by the Kastners’ house at all. Watching from their living room window, Wilhelm and Liesel observed parents driving their kids to school. Many avoided looking their way. Others gawked with their mouths hanging open. Their next-door neighbor had been a trusted friend whose daughter attended Wilhelm’s class. He stepped out his front door to snatch up the morning paper. Wilhelm stepped out, too. The neighbor hissed, “You stay away from me and my family. The only place for you is prison, you Nazi son of a bitch!” “Mr. Kane, why do they hate us?” Liesel buried her face in her hands and cried. “It is all a lie. Wilhelm, how can they believe?” “I don’t know, Schatzi.” Wilhelm explained, as I took notes, that he’d been a highly respected teacher at Mary Ellsworth Elementary School since they moved to Sunnybrook. Prior to the start of the school year, parents jockeyed for their children to be assigned to his classroom. “How come you’re so popular?” I asked. Wilhelm perked up. “All my students’ parents know me,” he said without hesitation. “I make sure to meet each one of them personally.” “How would you accomplish that?” “I make myself available whenever they need me. I meet with students and parents after school. I conduct parent/teacher con19


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ferences at their homes, so they would be comfortable and not inconvenienced.” Wilhelm explained he always looked for ways to engage coworkers. In the classroom, he readily adopted improvements to learning and school function. The children adored him. “Each of my kids has a nickname,” he said as he smiled. Wilhelm would name them after a forest animal or something that matched their personality: Red Fox, Beaver, Wood Mouse, even Thatched Roof for a red-headed boy whose hair resembled the lid of an old European farmhouse. “I made all my kids feel special and proud to be a ‘Kastner Kid.’” Wilhelm described his dynamic teaching style as he combined learning, discipline, and love. He orchestrated this organized chaos with precision. He hugged his kids, petted, and patted them. Much like a loving father would, Wilhelm claimed. “My gestures to my students were completely innocent, Mr. Kane.” We’ll see about that. The teacher worked with his children to nurture pride and self-esteem. His calm and loving support fortified his kids, especially when they faced adversity in the classroom or at home. All of this Wilhelm modeled after Summerhill—an educational and child rearing program he’d studied. Summerhill founder, A.S. Neill, sought to raise children who would grow to become happy human beings. When they first encountered Neill’s book, Wilhelm and Liesel liberally red-penned paragraphs and phrases. Liesel leaned forward in her chair and placed her hand on Wilhelm’s knee. “During our first Christmas together, Wilhelm gave the book to me as a gift.” 20


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“The concept of being free to love and learn spoke to our hearts and minds,” Wilhelm added. Not only their own children, but surely the children in Wilhelm’s classroom would benefit from this progressive thinking. Neill aspired to dispell the mystery of hate and punishment in society—concepts that Wilhelm and Liesel knew from personal experience, far too well. Summerhill set Wilhelm and Liesel free to pursue life and all that it offered without fear. “Love became our new priority. With that as our base, we decided to start a family,” Liesel said. She spoke of how they struggled to find love and what it meant. Both harbored conflict in their relationships with God and tragedies they had endured. Summerhill molded their desires for a future filled with peace and love. Wilhelm would give love freely to the children. The asset, of which he had been deprived as a child, now became the most important one he could give to children. That love returned to the teacher many times over. His students thrived in an environment where love, teaching and discipline went hand in hand. Determined to create an environment where the children could learn at their own pace, in their own way, Wilhelm felt his methods would assure his children’s academic success. The expression on my client’s face lit up as he spoke of his students and his classroom. Wait a minute. This guy is guilty of something. “Mr. Kane, I want to be clear that I never subscribed to all of Summerhill’s teachings. Although so many of them provide beautiful opportunities to learn,” Wilhelm said. Liesel furrowed her brow. “I think we may have made a mistake by loaning Summerhill to some of the parents.” “How so?” I asked. Liesel’s face reddened. “Wilhelm, can you explain?” 21


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He leaned forward in his chair. “Summerhill has several chapters that deal with sexual attitudes.” Oh, that’s going to hurt. “Those chapters are specific to child rearing,” Wilhelm continued. “I don’t use any of that information in my classroom. That would be inappropriate.” Liesel wrung her hands. “We should have been more careful.” That concerned me, too. “Where is the book now?” Wilhelm leaned back in his chair and groaned. “I’m sure it’s with one of the parents.” “I bet the DA has it by now.” I moved on. “Were any of your students having trouble in your classroom?” Wilhelm sat back and rubbed his brow. “Lauren Mason had some difficulty,” he recounted. “The other children in the classroom gave her a hard time. I tried to shield her from this.” He shook his head and added, “Lauren needed more attention than the other students and found ways to get it, even if the results weren’t good.” Spoiled kid wants revenge or pervert teacher finds excuse? He continued. “A few months back, I started working with a group of boys who wanted to learn how to play the guitar. We did this on our lunch hour.” Wilhelm explained that Lauren wanted to join the group, as well, but had a difficult time tuning the instrument. “I could tell Lauren hadn’t caught on, and rather than waste time while the other kids advanced, I suggested she leave the group until she learned how to tune the guitar from someone else. This may have upset her.” Wilhelm then described how he coached the whole class to achieve the Presidential Physical Fitness Award. A week before the teacher’s arrest, the town newspaper published a picture of several 22


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students who’d received recognition for the award, giving them instant celebrity status in the small community. Lauren’s father discovered his daughter was not in the photo and approached Wilhelm. “Liesel and I had been invited to a barbecue at the Mason family’s home,” Wilhelm said. “Harley had the paper in his hand and shook it at me.” Harley told Wilhelm that Lauren should be leading the class and asked why she did not appear in the picture with the other kids. Wilhelm assured Harley, “It’s okay. We’re working on it. Lauren can do this.” Confident she would achieve this award in her own time, Wilhelm felt for Lauren as she had to deal with her father’s competitive nature. “Did you know that Lauren is the one who started the complaint against you?” I asked Wilhelm. He tilted his head and stuttered, “We just had dinner with her family. Why would she do such a thing?” “Let’s push forward, for the moment,” I urged. “Wilhelm, I need to ask you about the familiarity you had with your students. Your physical interaction with them. Do you think hugging them and touching them may have been misconstrued?” “Yes, but my principal, who is also a close friend, is very supportive.” I looked at my notes. “That’s Jeffrey Nelson, right?” “Correct.” Wilhelm nodded. “He expressed concern that my way of interacting with the kids could be misunderstood. I’m willing to take that chance for the sake of the children.” Nelson may be a key witness in this case. “Tell me how Mr. Nelson and you became friends.” While stationed as a US Marine at the local base, Wilhelm volunteered to lead the Boy Scout troop. Jeffrey’s son, Paul, enrolled 23


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as one of his Scouts. When the Nelsons learned their son’s troop leader had no family close by, they invited him for dinner, which opened the door to holidays and family gatherings. Wilhelm soon became another son to Jeffrey and his wife, Mary. The Nelson’s boys called him their brother. Liesel would also be an important witness. “How did you meet your wife?” I asked Wilhelm. A broad smile crossed his face. “I met Liesel while visiting my parents in Germany.” Wilhelm’s posture softened. “I became smitten the moment she walked in the room. We married a year later.” Liesel rested her forehead on Wilhelm’s shoulder for a moment and whispered, “I truly felt then that we had hope for a better life.” “Just a few months after our first Christmas together, Liesel became pregnant with our first child,” Wilhelm continued, telling of the joy and fear that collided as the couple talked about the most productive ways to raise their children. Liesel gave birth to Max in September of the following year. Four months later, she announced they had a second child on the way. They named their daughter Karen. When the family outgrew their first home, they decided to move to Sunnybrook, closer to where the Nelson family lived and Jeffrey worked. “Jeffrey had an opening for a teacher and asked me to apply.” I nodded and stretched my writing hand. “How have your first years at Mary Ellsworth Elementary been?” “Best years of my life.” Wilhelm beamed with pride. Wilhelm and Liesel bought a home two blocks from the school. He walked to school every day. They befriended many of his student’s parents who invited the Kastners to their homes for dinner, and the Kastners often reciprocated. Liesel spoke up. “Mr. Kane, I’ve spent many hours in my husband’s classroom and watched him with the children. I baked cook24


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ies for every child’s birthday and brought them to school. We’d celebrate each one with great enthusiasm. The kids loved it,” she exclaimed. “I never noticed anything inappropriate going on. Wilhelm is a wonderful father to all of his children—at home and in his classroom.” I sympathized. “Yes, it is tough to understand why so many would turn on you after all that effort in support and friendship.” I looked at the two confused faces. “I’ve requested a copy of the investigation report, but haven’t gotten a call back yet.” Wilhelm’s hand cradled Liesel’s elbow as he led her to the door. “Mr. Kane, it is becoming apparent that the townspeople are forming two camps.” He shook his head. “One hates me and thinks I am guilty and the other supports me. We are surprised by who are in those camps and grateful to those who are standing by us.” I felt gratitude, as well, knowing that they had people in their corner. “Could you get me names of those parents and children? I’d like to interview all of them, assuming they are willing.” “We’ll get on that right away. Thank you, Mr. Kane.” “Call me Patrick.” As they turned to leave, Wilhelm stopped and turned toward me. “One last thing. Before we left the house this morning, we found a bag of rotten trash strewn across our front lawn and someone drew a swastika on our garage door with a marker.” Liesel’s voice dropped and her shoulders shook. “Both of us cleaned it up before daylight, but I’m scared.” Wilhelm wrapped his arm around his wife. “We can’t call the sheriff.” I nodded. “I can see why you wouldn’t.” “We have to get this over with as soon as possible,” he implored. Considering our options, I remained skeptical of how we could possibly be successful given the current set of circumstances. 25


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“The only way to do that is by taking your case in front of a judge and jury.” “I want to go to trial. The sooner, the better.”

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ABOUT ROBYN WALTERS Born to war-survivor parents, Robyn Walters was raised on the southern-most beaches of California. Robyn’s inspiration is drawn from ordinary people who provide extraordinary stories of triumph over tragedy. Newly retired from a life-long career in public service, Robyn writes to her heart’s content in western Colorado. Visit her at her publisher: www.bhcpress.com