Sex offender Hildyard up for parole
SUMMIT COUNTY – At 12, Sean (not his real name) was a sweet, light-hearted and funny young boy. Perhaps he was sometimes overly sensitive, his mother says, but he was a delight to his teachers and family.
He hanged himself four years ago, dying a disillusioned 26-year-old man. He was addicted to alcohol and drugs, but his parents believe he left this world to escape his greatest fear – that he would become a sexual predator, continuing the pattern of abuse that tainted his childhood and plagued him throughout his short life.
The man who authorities say abused Sean and several other Summit County boys in the late 1980s and early 1990s is eligible for parole. He will appear before a Colorado parole board Tuesday.
Joe Hildyard, now 63, and once a well-entrenched Summit County resident, was sentenced in 1992 to 30 years in prison for sexually assaulting six children. He is an inmate in a minimum security prison in Canon City. He’s reportedly been a model prisoner whose good behavior has made him eligible for early parole.
Sean’s parents, along with the parents of another boy Hildyard reportedly abused from age 5 to 13, are determined Hildyard won’t see the light of day. They’ve written letters to the parole board and want other locals who remember the once-communitywide scandal to join in the effort.
“I would kill him to make sure he doesn’t harm anybody else,” said David Stevens, the father of the boy whose abuse allegedly began when he was 5. “And it would not bother me one bit.”
The Stevenses’ son, now 25, married and working with inner-city children as a youth minister, spent years addicted to drugs and has had trouble holding a steady job. He never told his parents what happened to him during those eight years but plans to make a statement to the parole board next week.
While Hildyard was jailed for assaulting six boys, the parents of his victims say the abuse ran deep. Hildyard, who worked as director of the Silverthorne/Dillon Joint Sewer Authority, was originally booked on 416 counts of sexual assault, but plea bargained to just six.
Sean’s parents, who still live in Frisco, say Hildyard’s house was a gathering spot for local boys, who were attracted by his motorcycles, snowmobiles, frequent barbecues and a welcoming atmosphere that alarmed many of the children’s guardians. Sean’s parents believe, as David and Brenda Stevens do – that Hildyard also supplied the boys with drugs. Victims said he showed them -rated movies and gave them money – one boy said Hildyard gave him $20 after each sexual encounter and told the boy he would kill himself, “if you ever stop loving me.”
Evidence suggests Hildyard’s abusive acts dated back as far as 1975, said Judge Terry Ruckriegle, who sentenced Hildyard.
Sean’s mother said she suspected something was amiss when her son began spending an inordinate amount of time at Hildyard’s house. Short of physically confining him, however, she said she could not keep her son away from Hildyard. And Hildyard, despite the woman’s pleas to send her son home, turned a deaf ear.
Local police said they were suspicious of Hildyard but couldn’t catch him in any wrongdoing.
“I felt helpless,” Sean’s mother said. “I was doing everything I could think of, short of shooting (Hildyard), and there was actually that conversation.”
The family finally grabbed an opportunity to move out of the county, hoping to leave the problems behind. Things were better there, she said, “for everyone but Sean.”
“He tried, but he couldn’t focus,” she said. “He just drank more and more and more. He had so much self hatred.
“Just before he died, he told his girlfriend, “I hope I don’t end up like Joe.'”
A week after Hildyard was arrested in December 1991, authorities seized his house, car, boat and travel trailer – alleging he had abused victims in all those places. Then-District Attorney Pete Michaelson said authorities felt their investigation was revealing “just the tip of the iceberg.”
About a dozen boys came forward to say they had been abused. In court, young victims testified that Hildyard subjected them to touching, oral and anal intercourse. A psychiatrist warned then that victims who didn’t seek counseling faced a lifetime of problems.
During his July 1992 sentencing, Hildyard cried and apologized for the pain he had caused his victims and their parents.
For many of those families, the pain was just beginning.
“We have gone through years of hell,” said Brenda Stevens, mother of the boy whose abuse began at 5. “The drugs, withdrawal from the family … to this point, he still can’t really hold a job because he can’t trust the men that he works with. He is finally beginning to overcome all of this. He actually now can tell his father he loves him and can hug him. It took him years.”
The Stevenses, who still own property in Summit County, now live primarily in Arkansas. They left, Brenda said, because of the trauma their son endured.
Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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