Former longtime superintendent faces criminal, civil cases alleging child sexual abuse

The civil and criminal cases against Gary Young are believed to be the first tests of Oklahoma's Hidden Predators Act, which extended the time cases could be brought on behalf of alleged child sexual abuse victims.

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Photo by JORDAN GREEN/The Blackwell Journal-Tribune. Graphic by DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

The former longtime superintendent of Peckham Public School was arrested Wednesday on six felony charges including blackmail and lewd or indecent acts to a child. There were allegations made against Young several years ago, records reviewed by The Frontier show, but only recently was he forced to leave his job. 

Gary Martin Young was charged with four counts of lewd or indecent acts to a child, one count of blackmail and one count of causing injury to a child on behalf of four alleged victims in Kay County on Wednesday morning. The 65-year old was the superintendent of Peckham Public School for decades before losing his teaching certifications in August after the State Board of Education received several allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. 

Gary Young

Some of the acts were alleged to have happened more than three decades ago. 

One of the charges stemmed from a 2015 police report, in which a 15-year-old girl said the former superintendent restrained her and tried to kiss her while she was babysitting at his Blackwell home, court and police reports show. Young was not charged at the time and kept his job for years until the report surfaced again earlier this year. 

District Attorney Brian Hermanson, who was voted into office in 2010, declined to comment on the charges. 

Also on Wednesday, Young’s daughter, who was an alleged victim named in the criminal charges, filed a civil case in federal court alleging he sexually abused her as a child. 

The charges and case brought on behalf of Young’s daughter, Ashlee Tollett, now 38, would not have been permissible under Oklahoma law only three years ago. (The Frontier normally does not identify victims of sexual abuse, but Tollett gave a Frontier reporter permission.)

The civil and criminal cases against Young are believed to be the first test of Oklahoma’s Hidden Predator Act. The act, which went into effect on Nov. 1, 2017, extended the age a child sexual abuse victim could file a civil lawsuit from age 20 to 45.

It also expanded the age prosecutors could file criminal charges on behalf of alleged child sexual abuse victims from age 31 to 45. The measure removed the requirement that the victim notified law enforcement within 12 years after the discovery of the crime.

Young’s attorney, Mack Martin, declined to comment on the criminal case. Young could not be reached. 

Young on house arrest

Documents filed in Kay County District Court on Wednesday morning detail graphic accounts of allegations from four alleged victims stating Young sexually abused them. One victim alleged Young blackmailed her from 2009 and 2016, demanding sexual favors in exchange for job security, records show

The school administrator told investigators Young said if she told anyone about their sexual encounters she “would lose her job,” according to an arrest affidavit. 

“She allowed the relationship to continue because she had seen Gary run teachers off due to his manipulation,” the affidavit states. 

Young was also charged with four counts of lewd or indecent acts to a child under 16 and one count of causing injury to a child. The charges state the former superintendent touched the “private parts” of two children, at least one who was under 12. One victim said the assaults happened from 1985 to 1999, according to court documents. 

The document states Young exposed himself to the victim and other children at his Blackwell home. 

Another alleged victim, who was 15 at the time, said while babysitting at Young’s home in 2015, an intoxicated Young allegedly followed her around the house, restrained her and started “open mouthed kissing her on the neck,” the document states. 

Gary Young appeared at the Kay County Courthouse on Wednesday. Photo by JORDAN GREEN/Blackwell Journal-Tribune

Young, wearing a black and grey suit, appeared at the Kay County Courthouse before District Judge Lee Turner on Wednesday morning. Turner set Young’s bond at $50,000 with conditions for release: Young must stay on house arrest with a GPS ankle monitor and submit to daily alcohol monitoring. Young is barred from contacting any alleged victims, witnesses in the case or Peckham School staff members.

He also is prohibited from having firearms in his home. 

Prosecutors had requested a $1 million bond. 

An arrest affidavit states investigators were told of many sexual encounters where Young either “manipulated or attempted to manipulate individuals for sexual gain.” 

“Multiple search warrants were executed during the course of the investigation,” the affidavit says. “Items related to sexual enhancement prescriptions along, alcohol, notes regarding allegations, and legal blogs detailing a defense against sexual allegations.”

‘His attempt to control and manipulate me never ended’

Ashlee Tollett, Young’s daughter, told The Frontier that her earliest memories are of her dad sexually abusing her.

But only recently, Tollett said, has she come to terms that she was a victim of abuse.

The civil lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Oklahoma, accuses Young of exploiting and sexually abusing his daughter when she was a child. 

Gary Young videotapes his daughter, Ashlee Tollett, then 17, as she gets ready for her junior prom. Photo courtesy of Cameron Spradling

Tollett said she and her husband decided to go to investigators over the summer after they learned other women had made accusations against her father. Tollett said she felt the need to share her story because of her father’s position working with children.

“I lived under the hidden veil of a sexual abuse victim my whole life, even through my entire adulthood,” she said. “His attempt to control and manipulate me never ended. I only knew what was normal to me concerning my dad’s behaviors.

“It wasn’t until this summer when his previous and current sexual predatory patterns were revealed, that his abuse was outside of myself.”

The lawsuit alleges Young groomed his daughter for sexual abuse, and from ages four to 10, he insisted he be the only one to bathe Tollett. The suit states that around 1984, a babysitter approached Young and his wife, and told them she feared Tollett had been sexually abused.

“Young would boast that he then fired this babysitter over this allegation because she was crazy,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit’s complaint detail graphic allegations of Young sexually abusing his daughter throughout her childhood, such as touching her vagina, exposing his penis to her and kissing her. 

From sixth grade into adulthood, the suit alleges, Young would “ambush” Tollett from behind with “open mouth wet kisses to the back of her neck.”

These events would be so forceful and aggressive that the attack would give Ashlee no time for escape,” the complaint states.Young was so lustful in his ambush that he would leave his wet saliva on her body.”

The lawsuit seeks more than $75,000 in damages.

Tollett said she believes Young had always been manipulative and controlling to those around him.

“I think that it’s a prime example of someone who used his position of power to hide behind and commit crimes. He also used his family as a front for protection to do the same,” she said. “He has led a double life that’s now been revealed that I was not aware of.

“He has hidden behind the facade of being a family man and a respected educator to prey on so many people and children.”

Cameron Spradling, an attorney representing Tollett, said the criminal and civil cases are the first to be filed under Oklahoma’s Hidden Predator Act.

Oklahoma is on the forefront nationally in having passed a law that allows a child victim of sexual abuse to come forward and receive justice even into adulthood,” he said. “This case is a milestone for the rights of child victims in Oklahoma.”

‘He made a lot of sexual advances toward me’

Peckham Public School in Newkirk, which is less than a 30-minute drive from the Kansas border, has just less than 100 students. 

The Oklahoma State Board of Education in August suspended Young’s teaching certifications pending a revocation hearing after the board received “multiple sexual misconduct complaints” alleging he sexually assaulted adults and minors, groomed minors for sexual abuse and unfairly compensated teachers in exchange for sexual relationships, according to an emergency order.

The order mentioned a minor making a sexual assault report to Blackwell Police in 2015 and stated several students recounted situations wherein Young made them feel uncomfortable at his home.

One student said Young called her, along with two friends, into his bedroom where he was “laying there butt ass naked,” according to the eight-page order, and that it “weirded us out because he deliberately called us in there.”

Two other students reported Young told them “you girls look hot. You should just get naked and go swimming,” the order states. Another time, students reported, on an out-of-state trip Young allegedly bought alcohol for an underage girl, then while driving put his hand between her legs and propositioned her for sexual favors.

When they returned to the hotel, the girl locked herself in the bathroom, the order says.

Former Peckham Public Schools staff members also reported instances of sexual misconduct.

One former employee said Young “started grinding his crotch on me and started moaning” after she told him she missed her father, the order states.

Another staff member recalled: “Yes… he made a lot of sexual advances toward me … when I said no, he gave me poor evaluations.”

In the emergency order, the board stated that the Department of Education received a report Young had inappropriate sexual contact with an infant.

The department also received a complaint that Young had an inappropriate sexual relationship with one of his staff members for several years, the order states.

“The Department has received multiple sexual misconduct complaints against Young,” it states. “These complaints include allegations that Young has sexually assaulted adults and minors, groomed minors for sexual abuse and unfairly compensated teachers in exchange for sexual relationships.”

Related reading: 

Soul Survivors: Rape victims face uneasy path to new laws

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Kassie McClung

Staff writer

Kassie McClung joined The Frontier in May 2016. She reports on health, criminal justice and other state issues. Kassie holds a bachelors degree in multimedia journalism from Oklahoma State University. She likes dogs, maps and data. She can be reached at Kassie@readfrontier.com or 918-935-1044. Follow her on Twitter @KassieMcClung.
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