State College Police Detective Deirdri Fishel: Everyone looks at it as the picture perfect postcard, and for the most part, it’s really what it is. Central Pennsylvania is a very rural area, and then in the middle of it, this community popped up around Penn State University. It’s not a high crime area and you can walk to the grocery store at night if you want to, because it’s this idyllic community — Everybody here is happy … nothing ever goes wrong in Happy Valley. But underneath lies the fact that there is violent crime occurring, and unfortunately, a lot of that crime is within households. In the last 2 years my unit has handled over 500 cases of domestic violence, and for a couple of years all of our homicides in Centre County were a result of domestic violence. Meaning if you were not in a domestic violence relationship it’s a pretty safe area, but if you can’t be safe in your own home does it matter whether the community is safe.
That is how Detective Fishel introduced the trailer to “Telling Amy’s Story,” produced by Penn State Broadcasting, which tells the story of Amy Homan-McGee who was killed by her husband in November of 2001 in her Happy Valley home. The documentary addresses issues including stopping domestic violence and interfering in an abuse situation. The Happy Valley community kept silent even though they had seen signs of long-term domestic violence before the murder.
Happy Valley is a college town economically and demographically dominated by Penn State and particularly its football program. However, under the surface of this idyllic community and storied football program is the sinister life of a very private community, as exemplified by Amy’s story, and now by the Penn State scandal of sexual assault on boys by its assistant football coach under coaching icon Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky.
Additionally, we have the unsolved mystery of what happened to Ray Gricar, Centre County’s esteemed district attorney. Gricar has been missing since April 15, 2005. Gricar’s car was found, but his laptop computer, keys, and wallet were missing. His laptop was found with the hard drive removed. Two months later, it’s destroyed remains were found on the banks of the Susquehanna River.
Gricar’s disappearance is relative to the Penn State scandal because in 1998 Gricar did not pursue charges against Sandusky for allegedly showering with an 11-year-old boy. Gricar apparently reviewed police reports, notes and recordings of two conversations that the police overheard between Sandusky and the boy’s mother.
So, Detective Fishel is wrong, everything did go wrong in Happy Valley. But, correctly, underneath the fact, there is violent crime occurring — murder as well as rape are violent crimes — and unfortunately, a lot of that crime is within Happy Valley’s households and its beloved Penn State.
It went wrong because of the influence of a deeply entrenched and powerful football culture. Football became a religion. Protecting the football program’s interest superseded all morality, causing the University, and those in the community who should have known, to look the other way when they learned an assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, was allegedly raping little boys.
Athletes and their affiliates over a lifetime of being coddled develop an ingrained sense of entitlement. Putting folks like Joe Paterno on a pedestal as if he is larger than life, and the cover-up of sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky can be understood within the context that money corrupts.
High Schools, Colleges and Universities are celebrated by their sports teams’ prowess. Particularly Basketball and Football. Football programs such as Penn State’s means big money for their University. Happy Valley is economically viable because of the University.
Perhaps Ray Gricar, because of the evidence he had at the time, felt that the sexual abuse charges might not stick, and he therefore could not effectively stand firm against the political pressure of a case that involved a powerful hometown icon and a University so necessary to the economic wellbeing of the community.
Did Gricar commit suicide, and if he did, why? Could it have been something to do with his failure to prosecute Sandusky and the enormity of immorality that somehow he was being pressured to ignore.
To dissect most political and societal problems, one needs only to follow the money to find its root cause. It’s not just an aberration of Happy Valley or Penn State morality; it’s the same money virus that has infected America. The Happy Valley community kept silent even though there were signs of domestic violence, Penn State and Happy Valley’s deplorable acquiescence to the abuse of little boys and its attempt to cover-up its pedophilic scandal, and the whole reason for keeping these things under wraps was all about the money. Dan Rather on MSNBC said that Penn State was so “money-conscious” that their concern with profits was an “indication of what has happened to the country.”
Mariska Hargitay, Telling Amy’s Story — It’s Time to Talk, Huffington Post
Jack Cafferty, What role did the outsized influence of college sports play in the Penn State child sex abuse scandal?, CNN — The Cafferty File
Penn State Scandal Timeline: Key Dates In The Jerry Sandusky Sex Abuse Case, The Huffington Post