June 26, 2005 in City

West, Hahn could have taken boys from ranch, official says

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An official for Morning Star Boys’ Ranch conceded last week that Jim West and a fellow sheriff’s deputy who killed himself amid allegations of child molestation could have removed boys in the 1970s for outings without registering their names in ranch log books.

Last month, ranch director Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner cited the log books when he vigorously denied that West and David Hahn, who were close friends, took boys from the ranch on outings in the 1970s. The log books showed no evidence that West and Hahn, both Spokane County sheriff’s deputies, visited the ranch in the 1970s, Weitensteiner said at the time.

The ranch refused a request by The Spokesman-Review to examine the log books.

But in an interview with the newspaper last week, assistant Morning Star director Dan Kuhlmann acknowledged that visitors were not required to sign the spiral log books to remove boys who lived at the state-licensed facility. If West and Hahn visited, it may not have appeared in the books, Kuhlmann said.

Questions about Morning Star began to surface in May after the newspaper published allegations by two men who accused West of molesting them in the 1970s, when they were minors. Neither of the alleged victims was a resident at Morning Star. The day after the stories appeared in The Spokesman-Review, 54-year-old West, Spokane’s mayor, resigned from Morning Star’s board of directors.

Dick Walters, Hahn’s brother-in-law, said Hahn told him that he and West took at least one boy from Morning Star to a baseball game in Spokane. Walters said he has no evidence that sexual abuse occurred. But he said he is now convinced that Hahn, who committed suicide in August 1981, was a pedophile.

West released a statement Friday through his attorney, Bill Etter.

“This statement wasn’t true the first time (Walters) said it six weeks ago, when he also told a news station he wasn’t sure his recollection was accurate,” West said. “It isn’t true now, I deny it and the Morning Star records support me.”

Walters stood by his account to the newspaper and said last week he believes his recollection is accurate. He said he told a ranch spokeswoman that there could have been other ranches that the deputies visited, in addition to Morning Star. He said he never contradicted himself in the television interview, and the ranch spokeswoman misconstrued his comments.

Walters said that in the winter of 1978, Hahn delivered Christmas presents to Morning Star. Walters said he witnessed Hahn driving down the road to the ranch in his sheriff’s patrol car.

“I remember watching him in my rearview mirror,” Walters said. “I know he went there.”

During a press conference in May, Weitensteiner denied Hahn ever visited the ranch in the 1970s, and said he did not meet West until 1993, shortly before West was appointed to the ranch’s board of directors. Assistant director Kuhlmann, who joined the ranch in 1974, said he did not personally recall the deputies visiting Morning Star.

Hahn was under investigation for allegedly molesting two boys when he shot himself. As previously reported in the newspaper, Robert Galliher has alleged that both Hahn and West molested him. West has denied he abused Galliher.


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