January 29, 2010 in City

Putnam often combative, witness says

Former counselor says he never saw abuse at ranch
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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A former Morning Star Boys’ Ranch employee and close friend of a counselor accused of abusing a former ranch resident testified Thursday that he never saw inappropriate conduct.

Ray Roberts, 44, worked for Morning Star during the time Kenneth Putnam was sent there as a ward of the state at age 12. Putnam, now 34, is suing Morning Star in Spokane County Superior Court, claiming to have been physically and sexually abused by ranch director Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner and counselor Doyle Gillum, now deceased.

Putnam’s is the first of 19 separate lawsuits against Morning Star Boys’ Ranch.

Roberts said he knew Gillum since first grade in Okanogan, Wash. The two attended junior high and high school together, were roommates while attending Eastern Washington University and worked together at Morning Star during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Under questioning by Morning Star attorney Robert Sestero, Roberts said he never heard Gillum express an interest in boys or men. He also said that he never saw Gillum or Weitensteiner act in a physically or sexually inappropriate manner.

Last week, Putnam testified that Gillum, a night-shift counselor, entered his bedroom at night and fondled him on two occasions and that when he resisted, Gillum punched him. Putnam also testified that Weitensteiner molested him on the priest’s boat on Lake Coeur d’Alene and in the priest’s home and car.

Roberts remembered Putnam as “a very angry kid,” who had “a very short fuse” and had to be physically restrained on numerous occasions to keep him from hurting himself, others or property.

In fact, Roberts said, Putnam appeared to seek out restraint, which involved counselors physically subduing a boy in a humane manner as they were trained to do.

Notes by Roberts in the Morning Star daily log said Putnam “had a rough day” and that he was in his “restrain me” mode.

Earlier Thursday, Sestero completed defense questioning of former Morning Star social worker Mary Jentges, who said Putnam had been restrained on at least 23 occasions, according to ranch records. Jentges said Putnam would return agitated from rare visits to his mother’s home and became “more problematic” when the school season began. Morning Star boys typically attended public schools.

On cross-examination, Jentges was asked to read from Morning Star’s log entries for each of the three days before Putnam’s boating trip with Weitensteiner on July 25, 1989.

The log noted particularly bad behavior by Putnam, which appeared contrary to the ranch’s policy of using lake outings to reward good behavior.

When trial resumes Monday, defense attorneys will call more former Morning Star employees as well as a former resident who was discharged from the ranch into Gillum’s home.


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