Pedophile teacher abused scores as clues missed

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FILE – This combination of photos provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows William James Vahey in 1986, 1995, 2004 and 2013. Vahey, 64, killed himself in Luverne, Minn. on March 21, 2014. The discovery of Vahey, a man the FBI regards as one of the most prolific pedophiles in memory has set off a crisis in the community of international schools, where parents are being told that their children may have been victims, and administrators are scurrying to close loopholes exposed by Vahey’s abuses. (AP Photo/FBI, File)

FILE – This combination of photos provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows William James Vahey in 1986, 1995, 2004 and 2013. Vahey, 64, killed himself in Luverne, Minn. on March 21, 2014. The discovery of Vahey, a man the FBI regards as one of the most prolific pedophiles in memory has set off a crisis in the community of international schools, where parents are being told that their children may have been victims, and administrators are scurrying to close loopholes exposed by Vahey’s abuses. (AP Photo/FBI, File)

An outside view of the Southbank International School in central London where suspected child molester William James Vahey taught for a four-year term, Thursday, April 24, 2014. British police is helping with a FBI global investigation to identify and trace victims of a suspected pedophile teacher, William James Vahey, who killed himself in March in Luverne Minnesota. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

In this Wednesday, May 7, 2014 photo, a security guard mans his post at the entrance of the American Nicaraguan School in Managua, Nicaragua where U.S. citizen William James Vahey worked as teacher. Vahey killed himself on March 21, two days after agents in Houston filed for a warrant to search a computer thumb drive that belonged to Vahey. The storage device contained pornographic images of at least 90 boys, ages 12 to 14, who appeared to be drugged and unconscious, according to the FBI. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

In this Wednesday, May 7, 2014 photo, a vehicle drives by the main entrance gate of the American Nicaraguan School in Managua, Nicaragua. U.S. citizen William James Vahey, 64, worked as teacher here from 2013-2014. He was one of the most beloved teachers in the world of international schools that serve the children of diplomats, well-off Americans and local elites. The FBI regards Vahey as one of the most prolific pedophiles in memory has set off a crisis in the community of international schools, where parents are being told that their children may have been victims, and administrators are scurrying to close loopholes exposed by Vahey’s abuses. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

In this Wednesday, May 7, 2014 photo, a security guard is reflected in a car mirror in front of the house where U.S. citizen William James Vahey lived, near the American Nicaraguan School in Managua, Nicaragua where he worked as teacher from 2013-2014. Vahey, 64, killed himself on March 21, 2014 – two days after agents in Houston filed for a warrant to search a computer thumb drive that belonged to him. The storage device contained pornographic images of at least 90 boys, ages 12 to 14, who appeared to be drugged and unconscious, according to the FBI. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

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He was one of the most beloved teachers in the small world of international schools that serve the children of diplomats, well-off American expatriates and local elites. He was often the first to arrive in the morning, and the last to leave each day. He led students on class trips to exotic places, treating them to cookies and milk at bedtime.

That was the public persona of William Vahey, carefully crafted over four decades until a maid cleaning his home in Nicaragua stole a 16-gigabyte memory drive. There, in photograph after photograph, was evidence that the model teacher had molested scores of adolescent boys, possibly more, in a career spanning 10 schools on four continents.

The discovery of a man the FBI regards as one of the most prolific pedophiles in memory has set off a crisis in the close-knit community of international schools, where horrified parents are being told their children may have been victims of a favorite teacher, and administrators are scurrying to close teacher-vetting loopholes revealed by Vahey’s abuses.

“With the sheer volume, the sheer number of incidents in which this man molested, it surprises me that somehow this was not picked up by someone,” said John Magagna, the founding director of Search Associates, the world’s largest international school recruiting firm. “I don’t know what went wrong.”

Apparently not even Vahey’s victims knew they had been molested. The double-cream Oreos that he handed out at bedtime on the overnight trips were laced with sleeping pills — enough to leave the boys unconscious as he touched them, and posed them for lewd photographs.

Vahey, a 64-year-old native of West Point, New York, attempted suicide in Nicaragua after his maid stole the drive. He survived, but killed himself on a second try, stabbing himself to death in Minnesota on March 21 and leaving hundreds of former students wondering if they were abused.

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

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