Former Manassas, Va., school teacher Kevin Ricks, who accepted a plea deal in March, has been sentenced to 25 years in jail for production and possession of child pornography.
Prosecutors said he molested boys in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Japan, typically getting them drunk and then assaulting them once they were unconscious.
Ricks led a double life as a charismatic, successful and popular teacher and camp counselor but also had a dark side, prosecutors said. They point to journal entries, photos and videos uncovered during the year-long investigation that chronicle his 30-year history of molesting young boys. In February 2010, a Manassas mother became suspicious of Ricks and went to the police.
Christopher Payne, one of Ricks’s first victims, will be the first to tell you the past 30 years haven’t been easy. He spoke out Thursday, hoping his horrific story will help someone else.
“I’m hoping more boys out there will come out and say what happened to them. They are not alone and need to be heard,” Payne said.
Ricks has admitted to molesting Payne when he was working as a camp counselor in North Carolina. Payne was just 11 years old.
Payne was the only victim on hand for Thursday’s sentencing. He gave a statement after Ricks apologized to the court.
“We have no doubt Mr. Ricks would have continued his pattern of sex abuse were it not for the heroic actions of one parent,” says Neil MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The FBI, Homeland Security and Virginia State Police have ramped up efforts to catch predators like Ricks with their Project Safe Childhood program. It’s a program that combines resources from various jurisdictions to help identify victims and their abusers.
The effort has led to the arrests of more than 13,000 people. But their biggest battle is online.
“They’re working to be anonymous in what they do, so we have to be smarter,” said Ron Hosko, of the FBI’s Washington field office.
Payne looks forward to closing this chapter of his life. He now works with children at a residential school.
“I’m glad he got 25 and I’m glad he admitted it … that’s gonna help me with closure,” Payne said. “I really need closure more than anything.”
Payne said he wants parents to look for signs that their child is being abused. Those signs could include sadness, anger or even nightmares.
People with questions, concerns or in need of help can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE or visit the website by clicking here.