Sex charges dropped against ex-rec director

July 29, 1993|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Staff Writer

Prosecutors yesterday dropped charges against the former director of a West Baltimore recreation center who was accused of multiple sex offenses involving seven youngsters under his supervision during the past two years.

Walter Leon McClain, 59, of the 4700 block of Three Oaks Road in Pikesville, was arrested May 28 and charged with 24 counts of third-degree sex offense, sexual child abuse and battery.

But the case was dropped yesterday after several alleged victims recanted their statements implicating Mr. McClain -- first in a television news story and then in interviews with prosecutors, said Cristina Gutierrez, Mr. McClain's attorney.

Also, Ms. Gutierrez said, the mother of a child who initiated the first charges against Mr. McClain by filing charges with a District Court commissioner has dropped out of sight. "If this investigation had been adequate to begin with, Mr. McClain would not have been arrested," she said.

Gregory R. Rothwell, the assistant state's attorney handling the case, said he would not comment "because the investigation continues." Mr. Rothwell has subpoenaed WBAL-TV reporter Frank Mann to testify before a Baltimore Circuit Court grand jury in connection with the case. A hearing was held yesterday to determine whether Mr. Mann should be compelled to testify before the panel, said Mary R. Craig, an attorney representing WBAL. In June, Mr. Mann reported a story in which several of the alleged victims recanted their charges against Mr. McClain.

Despite the continued legal wrangling, Mr. McClain said, he is relieved that the charges apparently are behind him. But he said that the ordeal has left him a changed man.

"I am no longer the person I used to be," he said. "This was so stressful. The charges were fabricated. They never happened. I'm kind of leery of children right now."

In the wake of the charges, Mr. McClain and his wife of 31 years, Hazel, said they felt nervous even setting foot in their church, where for years Mr. McClain has taught Sunday school. He said that he even kept his distance around the children of relatives.

"We had relatives come to our home with children," he said, "and I'd play games with them and all. But I would not let them get close."

Mr. McClain has been an employee of the Department of Recreation and Parks for 26 years. He was working as a recreation center director in Rosemont -- often volunteering after hours to coach track and field -- before his arrest in May.

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