Morning Star Boy's Ranch trial starts this week - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Morning Star Boy's Ranch trial starts this week

Kevin Graman
Spokesman-Review

SPOKANE, Wash. - Few court cases have so challenged the Spokane community's faith in a revered institution as the Morning Star Boys' Ranch lawsuits, the first of which goes to trial this week.

It has been more than four years since two former residents of the home for troubled boys accused ranch employees of sexual and physical abuse.

There are now 19 plaintiffs who claim that the ranch, which opened in 1956, for decades was "managed, staffed and run by and for pedophiles and other sadistic sexual predators of boys," according to court documents.

The first trial – that of alleged victim Kenneth Putnam, who was sent to Morning Star as a ward of the court in 1986 – begins Monday.

"The history of Morning Star is going to be presented in this trial," as generations of abuse victims "finally get their day in court," said Timothy Kosnoff, the attorney whose Seattle firm is representing Putnam and 14 other plaintiffs.

For its part, Morning Star will have its chance to clear its name, which supporters and its former director say have been sullied by allegations they vehemently deny.

Many of the accusers name the ranch's former directors – the Revs. Marvin Lavoy, who died in 1994, and Joseph Weitensteiner, who retired in 2006 – as their abusers.

Others say Morning Star administrators permitted known sexual predators such as defrocked priest and admitted pedophile Patrick O'Donnell to take boys "to other locations where they would sodomize and molest them," according to court records.

Morning Star Boys' Ranch officials declined, through their executive director Richard Petersen, to be interviewed for this story.

More information from

www.spokesman.com

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