A lesson in betrayal At first, the Wilke boys kept the secret. He was their friend, after all. By the time they spoke out, trying to help others, it was too late to help themselves.

June 22, 1997|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,SUN STAFF Sun news researchers Dee Lyon and Robert Schrott contributed to this story.

Matt Wilke headed up Masemore Road in Baltimore County, a spiral notebook on the passenger seat of the car, a teddy bear tucked next to the stick shift. In the back was a 10-foot coil of plastic pipe.

He turned the red Volkswagen GTI down a grassy lane and drove deep into a cornfield. It was an August day last year, and Matt had been thinking of his father and his brother, Justin.

He also had been thinking of Peter Dudley Albertsen II, the man who a decade ago had betrayed Matt's family.

Matt was 13 when the secret games began. His brother, only 11. "Pete," as the boys affectionately called him, was 24.

Years later, in a letter to Justin, Pete would recall the games they played, the secrets he admonished them never to tell.

"Did I injure you? What was the extent and the nature of the injury? Did I destroy you? What was the mechanism of the destruction? Were my actions careless? Were they criminal? Did I trick you or fool you?

"Were you my quarry or prey?"

Next month, a federal judge in Baltimore will determine Albertsen's role in the obliteration of the Wilke family and decide what price he should pay. Matt and Justin will not be there. But prosecutors plan to tell their story by bringing Justin's paintings and poetry into the courtroom. It is a legacy the brothers left for other young people and their parents. It teaches the lessons of deception and the dangers of secrecy.

It allows Justin to say to Pete:

What's the problem here

I thought I was one in a trillion

Just another kid

You are not talented

Just clever

Full of lies and promises to tickle the fancy of mine

I do not hate myself for you, that I would spend half of my life

With promises of secrecy and tales not to tell

Camp Puh'Tok is a postcard-perfect haven for children in the wooded hills of Monkton near Gunpowder Falls State Park. Matt and Justin met Pete there in June 1985.

The boys, 11 and 9, were curious and cute, with bangs of sandy brown hair. They spent their days at the pool, their nights around the fire ring. Pete was a lifeguard who played the dulcimer, and taught arts and crafts to the children.

"He really identified with the kids," said Tina Mason, a Puh'Tok camper who became one of Matt's closest friends.

And the kids identified with Pete. With his ponytail and mustache, he was cool and confident, college-smart. He was grooming himself to become a teacher, preparing to study elementary education and psychology at Towson State University. This was his seventh summer at Puh'Tok.

Don and Susan Wilke considered Pete an ideal role model for their boys. When camp broke, Pete kept up with the brothers by writing letters. During the summer of 1986, while working at Puh'Tok, Pete slept over at the Wilke home near Hereford. Don and Susan wanted to spare him the commute back to Baltimore.

Don was a bookish, bespectacled manager at the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn. At home, he tinkered with cars, cameras and computers. He shared his passions with his sons.

His wife, Susan, was a free-spirited corporate secretary. They found 6 acres high in the horse country and built a brick rancher on Mount Carmel Road, where they thought their boys would be safe from the big-city dangers of Baltimore 31 miles away.

Pete felt a sense of security here that he never knew growing up.

Raised in Annapolis, he was the son of a nurse and a Maryland Natural Resources Police officer. He later told psychologists his family was in constant conflict.

"'You'll never amount to anything,'" Pete said his dad liked to remind him. "I was dreadfully afraid of him."

When his parents divorced in the late 1970s, Pete called it "a relief." It was around the same time, he said, that he first acted on his sexual feelings for children. Pete was 18 when he approached a 13-year-old neighborhood boy.

"When I told him I had fallen in love with him, he was afraid of the idea, so I foolishly pushed him away," Pete later wrote. "I stopped speaking to him all together. That was my mistake, part of my crazy 'all or nothing' thinking."

Pete wouldn't make the same mistake with Matt and Justin.

The summertime stays at the Wilke home in Baltimore County strengthened Pete's bonds with the boys. He bought them Laffy Taffy and Berger's cookies. He taught them how to use his Canon camera. In late 1986, he asked Don and Susan whether their sons could spend weekends at his Hampden rowhouse on Poole Street, overlooking the Roosevelt Park playground.

Don and Susan approved. By then, Pete had become like a third son, a big brother to their boys.

"This was the life," Justin would later write. "This was any kid's dream. I wanted to be as mature as Pete. And in my mind, I was. I would do anything to keep the relationship. I knew that he was the best friend any kid could ever have. ... So I thought."

For Matt and Justin, the goal of the games seemed simple: fun. For Pete, the goal was sex.

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