Ex-Mid's role in sex abuse prompts Md. investigation At academy, he was mentor in Big Brothers

June 19, 1996|By JoAnna Daemmrich and Scott Shane | JoAnna Daemmrich and Scott Shane,SUN STAFF

To parents in the Annapolis area, he was the polite midshipman who took time to mentor their children and run the U.S. Naval Academy's Big Brothers & Big Sisters program. To their kids, he was the hip young man in the red Mustang convertible who challenged them to chess matches and took them to the National Aquarium and local arcades.

But since then, Patrick Michael Chapman's devoted interest in children has taken on a sinister cast. Two days ago, in his Texas hometown, Chapman, 25, admitted sexually molesting a 13-year-old boy and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Chapman's Texas case has prompted an investigation of his activities with the dozens of Maryland children with whom he spent many hours after coming to the academy in 1991.

Investigators say they have identified one boy, the son of a Navy officer stationed in Annapolis, who apparently was molested as a preschooler by Chapman while he was baby-sitting. The boy's parents declined to prosecute to spare their son from having to testify, said Capt.

Thomas Jurkowsky, a spokesman for the academy.

Midshipmen who participated with Chapman as Big Brothers in the academy-sponsored club, which has been disbanded, say they were shocked when they heard about the Texas case.

"I was astonished," said Ensign Matthew W. Smith, a May graduate who served as the club's vice president after Chapman was expelled from the academy for poor grades last year. "I was furious. To be a child molester is bad enough. But to be president of Big Brothers-Big Sisters is beyond belief."

Academy officials say they have done everything possible to make sure Chapman's activities are fully investigated in Texas and Maryland. Last summer, a 14-member Navy team of specially trained child abuse investigators spent several weeks in Annapolis, conducting more than 100 interviews but finding only the one case of suspected abuse, Jurkowsky said.

In a separate case of child sexual abuse, a second midshipman was arrested in April and charged with molesting a toddler while staying at the home of a family in Annapolis. Jeremy Michael Coale, 19, of East Grand Rapids, Mich., is awaiting trial.

During Chapman's 3 1/2 years at the academy, and especially in the months after he left the academy in January 1995 and was awaiting formal discharge, he often was seen in the company of children.

Midshipmen and merchants in downtown Annapolis regularly spotted the studious Chapman, who looked younger than his age, with adolescent boys in tow. At the Moon, a coffee shop a block from the academy, he bought coffee for his young admirers and played chess with them, said Roger Moyer, the owner.

"He would come in with a group," Moyer said. "He had money, and other kids his age didn't."

On the playground in the Arnold neighborhood of Pines on the Severn, where he lived off and on with two families while on leave from the academy, parents were grateful for what seemed his generous attention to their children.

"He seemed so squeaky-clean," says a father whose children played frequently with Chapman. His children have been questioned closely by him and by investigators from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Annapolis Police Department, who concluded they were not abused, he said. "But it definitely crosses your mind many, many times over," said the father, who asked not to be named.

In spring 1995, when it became evident that Chapman was no longer attending classes, he did not tell his Arnold neighbors that he was in academic trouble. He claimed to be on medical leave as a result of two accidents on the Arnold playground that left him with a burst eardrum and a broken leg.

In April, he went home to Rockwall, a suburb of Dallas, where he had graduated 10th in his high school class in 1989 before enlisting in the Navy. He had performed so well in training as a nuclear propulsion technician in Orlando, Fla., that he won a nomination to the Naval Academy, where he was considered very intelligent and initially received high grades.

One afternoon after his return to Texas, he invited a 13-year-old boy to the home of an absent friend, where he gave him beer and marijuana before exposing himself, a Texas prosecutor said.

Another time in the same house, he again got the boy high on marijuana before performing a sex act on him, said Rick Calvert, assistant district attorney for Rockwall. When the boy's parents later noticed he was intoxicated, he said that Chapman had abused him. He also said Chapman had driven him and two friends around on past vacations, buying them beer and cigarettes and playing a "truth or dare" game in which they undressed, Calvert said.

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