Sage Christensen, The Loved One
In 2002, Amherst principal Stephen Myers is accused of making sexual comments to a student, and loses custody of his adopted son. Nine years later, a man named JP Vernazzaro is killed on a Beverly playground. Are the events connected by an awful secret?
The day after the fight, when Christensen and Martin appear in court for an arraignment, the prosecutors say JP Vernazzaro’s killing was an act of premeditated murder. Sage’s defense attorney, Ray Buso, counters that Sage acted in self-defense. Buso, himself a former prosecutor, says his client was just trying to protect himself and Melissa, and that he went to the park for the fight because Vernazzaro had threatened to come to the Blaine House if he didn’t, which could have led to Sage getting kicked out of the program. As for the bat and knife, Buso explains that the teens grabbed them at the last minute to use as a deterrent. This explanation does not please Judge Dunbar Livingston, who says that Sage and Adam should have simply removed themselves from the situation.
A year and a half later, the teens continue to sit in jail, awaiting trial on charges of murder and assault and battery. In October 2011 Sage was charged with two other counts of assault and battery for allegedly attacking a jail guard with a bar of soap wrapped inside a sock.
Although no one has come forward to say that Myers abused Sage, Dan Thiel has reached out to Buso to ask to speak with Sage. He says he wants to lend support. But Buso and Sage’s parents have declined the request, feeling that Sage has enough to deal with at the moment. The family and Buso also denied requests to make Sage available for an interview for this story.
Steve Myers, meanwhile, showed up in Menlo Park, California, where he got a job at Mid-Peninsula High School in the fall of 2011. This January, Connie Durant put together a package of newspaper clippings about Myers and sent it to the school. Myers was quickly placed on leave.
Around the same time, Jon Warner filed his police report in Mountain View, California. And another former Traveling School student, Charles Hurt, filed a separate police report with the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office in California, claiming that Myers molested him at Yosemite National Park in 1974. Then, in May, Durant sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice providing a timeline of the claims of abuse against Myers and asking that a case be opened.
Myers’s alleged victims have also contacted several attorneys. They hope to file a civil lawsuit against Myers by the end of the year, with the goal of preventing him from finding another teaching job. Among the lawyers they’ve reached out to are those representing one of the victims of former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted in June on 45 counts of abuse. Through a nonprofit called the Second Mile, Sandusky offered programs for at-risk Pennsylvania children for more than 30 years. Many of his victims were participants in that program.
In all, I interviewed four people who say they were abused by Myers. After hearing their stories, it is difficult not to draw some comparisons between Sandusky’s crimes and the ones Myers is alleged to have committed. One man I spoke to, who knew Myers in the 1970s and asked to remain anonymous, told me that Myers’s “typical target was someone with an estranged relationship with their parents or someone without a father. That made it easier for him to befriend them and provide much-desired attention. It always felt healthy and good at first. And then it turned into something else.”
Back in December 2011, when Durant was still in touch with Myers, she received a package from him in the mail. It was a novel Myers had written called Floaters. It tells the story of a retired teacher who befriends a 12-year-old boy, and together, they attempt to escape an overly repressive society. The book contains several scenes of pedophilia. The dedication: “To my beloved son, Sajan.”