An Alaska man left a video behind when he completed suicide last month, revealing that his high school principal and hometown hero had sexually abused him as a child.
Rick Martin was diagnosed with a terminal illness at the age of 60. Tragically, he took his own life on March 11 in Haines, Alaska, according to a report by The Daily Mail. Rather than a suicide note, he recorded a video on his phone, where he described in graphic detail the sexual abuse he suffered decades ago.
Martin said that Karl Ward, his high school principal, had raped him when he was young. Ward died 21 years ago, yet Martin’s video prompted four more men to come forward with stories about abuse they suffered at his hands.
Ward was beloved in the small Alaskan fishing town. He had even the high school gym named after him in his honor. Most in the community saw him as benevolent educator, though they can now admit that rumors of his abuse had been buried for years.
Martin’s widow, Rene, is now the principal of the high school herself. She has spoken out in the wake of her husband’s death, hoping that the revelation will start an ongoing dialogue about mental health and abuse. She added that the guilt “needs to only live with that one man.”
Ward worked in the school system for over 20 years. He was the superintendent in the 1960s and 70s, and he died in 1997. His widow lives in an assisted living facility. While she wouldn’t talk to reporters, a nurse administrator named Stephanie Pattison told The Daily Mail that she is “in shock and she’s in mourning for the life she thought she had.”
The other four accusers spoke out about the abuse when contacted by Chilkat Valley News. Their names are Craig Loomis, Robert Brouillette, Nick Kokotovich and Roger Schnabel.
Loomis told the outlet that Ward was known to invite students over to his house and offer them alcohol. Loomis went to such a gathering when he was 16 or 17 years old, he recalled, and said that Ward “inappropriately touched” him while he was there.
“I don’t want to mention any other names, but I’m sure there’s probably more than a couple,” Loomis said.
“God I feel so sorry,” Loomis went on. “I should have said something 30 or 40 years ago. Whoever’s been suffering, we don’t know what their life would have been if we would have said something.”
Brouillette was sent to Ward’s house one day by a teacher to retrieve keys to the school.
“Karl Ward came out on his porch, drinking, and touched me, too,” Brouilette said. “He reached out and grabbed me by my manhood. I think it’s happened to more than just two of us. I think there was more than Craig [Loomis] and I. It’s sad.”
Kokotovich was also invited to have drinks at the principal’s house, back in 1977, he said.
“I was in the kitchen mixing a drink and he came up behind me and grabbed my buttocks and squeezed it a couple times,” Kokotovich said. “I mean he grabbed hold. I jumped back and told him to knock it off and don’t do that. He just smiled at me and backed away.”
Schnabel said that he was alone with Ward in his basement on a similar occasion was he was harassed.
“Mr. Ward, he approached me inappropriately. I went into sort of a shock mode, immediately left his home and told my father. I was probably about 15 or 16 years old. I never visited him again,” he said.
Rene recalled that her husband had said that he once told his own father about the abuse, but Martin’s dad said that the family was “Native,” so there was nothing to be done about it.
Borough Manager Debra Schnabel said issues like these simply weren’t discussed all those decades ago, and credits the Me Too Movement for these recent revelations.
“I think a lot of people in the community, we’re not beating ourselves up for the culture that we lived in,” she said. “I think that we’re kind of pleased with the fact that we can, at this point in our lives, bring it to the fore and use the knowledge that we have to try to make things better for everybody.”