Your Statein the News






MASPALin the News


  • Grandmother leading effort to help victims of abuse



    By ALLISON FARRELL of the Missoulian State Bureau


POTOMAC - Theresa Ogle is not one to sit around when something needs doing.

And she thinks the state's laws need to change to better protect victims of sexual assault. So she launched the nonprofit organization Mothers Against Sexual Predators At Large in 2001.

Ogle and her daughter, Lisa Rea, came up with the idea driving home from the sentencing of Dennis Brister, Rea's former husband who spent years molesting one of her young sons.

Brister began molesting his stepson less than a year after he was released from the Montana State Prison, where he served time for molesting his two young nieces in the 1980s.

"The only way you can guarantee safety to the children walking to school is when the sex offender is supervised," Ogle said. "There's a need for change."

From her home up a dirt road five miles outside Potomac, Ogle is reaching out to people all over the country in an attempt to make some changes. Her husband, Jan Ogle, serves as the organization's chief executive officer, and local advocates, such as Missoula clinical psychologist Michael Scolatti, sit on the group's advisory board.

"We don't need prisons full of people who smoked one joint," Ogle said. "We need prisons full of people who hurt other human beings."

While the organization is still developing its education outreach program, Ogle said the group already has some solutions in mind.

"The only certain solution is lifetime supervision within specialized facilities," Ogle said.

The group is advocating for community-based centers in every state to supervise sex offenders after they've served their time. Currently, the only way the state can supervise sex offenders over a long period of time is by giving them long prison and parole sentences.

"I don't agree with lifetime supervision for everybody," said Scolatti, who has worked with sex offenders since 1980. "But it has a good place for some. Research shows the longer someone is supervised, the less chance they have of reoffending."

While recidivism rates for untreated sex offenders can be quite high, Scolatti said treated child molesters reoffend 13 percent of the time and treated rapists reoffend 17 percent of the time.

And one in three inmates at state prison goes through its sexual offender program.

MASPAL advocates are working to secure funding for their cause, and so far Albertsons grocery stores have agreed to donate a portion of shoppers' purchases if they show their MASPAL card. Ogle said she's working is currently working out an arrangement with Wal-Mart.

The group's first educational presentation is scheduled for this summer in Kalispell and Ogle said she just created her first electronic slideshow with PowerPoint. The organization plans to teach people how to search public records and how to use the online sex offender registry, as well as serve as victims' advocates.

The online registry is a searchable computer database that catalogs all of Montana's convicted sex offenders. It can be found at www.doj.state.mt.us. Click on the link to the sexual and violent offender registry.

"There's a need for change," Ogle said. "We all have to become educated about the situation."

  • Mother of molestation victim says state should face greater penalties


    By ALLISON FARRELL of the Missoulian State Bureau

      When Lisa Rea, left, of Potomac married Dennis Brister in 1993 she had no   idea he was a convicted sex offender. Rea and her mother, Theresa Ogle,   have organized a nonprofit group called Mothers Against Sexual Predators   At Large to help victims of sexual abuse.

      POTOMAC - "Bobby's" stepfather was under a Missoula District Court order   to regularly attend sexual offender treatment classes when he started   molesting his stepson in November 1993.

    But Dennis Brister, who was on parole for molesting two of his young nieces in the 1980s, never went to class. None of his parole officers enforced the court order. So Brister quickly lied his way into a 1993 marriage with a Potomac woman who had three young boys. Brister began molesting Bobby the same month he married the boy's mother, Lisa Rea.

    Only after a 1998 theft conviction placed Brister back in the Montana State Prison did Bobby tell his grandmother that he had been molested for years. Bobby's name has been changed to protect his privacy.

    The state admitted negligence in June 2003 and formally settled with Bobby for $150,000 in November. But Bobby's family says the state should pay more so the Department of Corrections has incentive to keep others from falling through the cracks of the justice system.

    "If the state does not experience any consequences for their negligence in my case, they will not be inclined to take any responsibility ever," Rea said.

    Between 1992 and 1998, three parole officers handled Brister's case. Not one enforced Brister's attendance at a sexual offender treatment program. And the one parole officer who met with Rea before she married Brister never discussed the implications of marrying a pedophile, she said.

    In fact, Rea said, parole officer Earl Strubeck never even told her Brister was a pedophile. Strubeck referred a reporter's questions to the department's public information officer.

    "I told him I had three children and we were planning on getting married and I asked him his opinion on that," Rea said. "And then he brushed me off. He didn't even hint that there would be any problem with this man."

    Rea said she never knew Brister was a pedophile until Bobby told her of his abuse in 1999. Brister lied to Rea about why he was in prison.

    "When I found out, I just let out this mortal scream," Rea said.

    Bobby's grandmother, Theresa Ogle of Potomac, has worked to rehabilitate people all her life.

    In the 1970s, Ogle was a foster mother, and in the 1980s she earned a bachelor's degree in social work and communications from the University of Montana. Ogle has worked with Missoula County Youth Court and Child Protective Services.

    But she never figured Brister for a child molester, and Bobby's confession came as a shock.

    "It was like someone unscrewed my foot and poured me out," Ogle said. "Of all people, I should have known."

    Ogle said Bobby and his three brothers were sitting around her kitchen table one summer day in 1999, talking about Brister since he was about to be released from prison on the 1998 theft conviction. Ogle, drawing on her counseling skills, asked the boys to talk about Brister's best qualities.

    The four boys - Brister had a child with Rea in 1994 - mentioned fishing trips.

    "Then I asked them about the worst thing," Ogle said. "Because if we can talk about the worst thing, then we can deal with it."

    The session quickly turned raucous, with the boys trying to top their brothers' complaints. When Bobby disclosed that Brister had molested him for years, his brothers snorted in disbelief, Ogle said.

    But Ogle shushed them, and urged the boy to continue. Ogle said everyone fell silent as Bobby tearfully recounted the years of incest that took place after school.

    Ogle whisked the boy off to the Missoula County Sheriff's Department, where he repeated his story for law enforcement. Brister, still in prison, was convicted of incest in October 2000 and is serving a 15-year prison sentence for the crime in Deer Lodge.

    Lisa Rea and her son filed separate lawsuits against the state of Montana in 2002 for neglect. Rea said the state failed to properly supervise Brister while he was on parole. She also said the state had a duty to ensure Brister's participation in sex offender classes as well as inform her of his past.

    "Brister had more than one parole officer during the time we were married and none of them ever even alluded to the fact that he might be a threat to children," Rea said. "I interpreted silence to mean acceptance, that everything was all right."

    Brister repeatedly lied to Rea about his criminal past and explained away his 1984 sex conviction by saying he had been convicted of statutory rape when he was 20 for having a relationship with a teenage girl.

    Rea thought she was being cautious by talking to Brister's parole officer before they were married. She said she got no indication she needed to dig deeper into Brister's past.

    In hindsight, Rea is shocked that the state let Brister - a man who repeatedly forced himself on two girls ages 4 and 8 - marry into a family with three young boys.

    If the state won't acknowledge that it failed the family, it should at least recognize that it failed Brister, Ogle said.

    "Either way, they didn't do their job," Ogle said. "You don't rehabilitate an alcoholic by giving him a job tending bar."

    The state Department of Corrections assumed full responsibility for failing to enforce Brister's participation in a sex offender treatment program. However, none of Brister's parole officers was formally disciplined for the oversight, said Michael Ferriter, administrator of the department's Community Corrections Division.

    Helena attorney Curt Drake, who represented the state in the lawsuits, concedes that the state was wrong when it failed to enforce Brister's participation in sex offender classes.

    And for that, the state gave Bobby $150,000. After attorney fees, the boy had $98,000 placed in an education trust.

    But the state admits no wrongdoing against Rea. In fact, the state filed a suit against her in May 2003 for negligence but dropped its claim after Rea dropped her lawsuit.

    Drake said Rea should have known that Brister was a pedophile, and the state's parole officers assumed she did.

    "She was in a position to know more than the state about the day-to-day life of the man she married," Drake said. "His conviction is a public record. That's an easily accessible document."

    And furthermore, he said, the state did not have the authority to prevent Brister from marrying.

    "The probation and parole officer doesn't know she doesn't know (about Brister's past) already," Drake said. "These people's lives have privacy interest, even though they are convicted felons and have committed sex offenses."

    Rea said she's been asked why she married an ex-convict. And people want to know why she didn't check Brister's arrest records before they were married.

    But Rea said law enforcement officials never gave her any indication that she needed to investigate Brister's past.

    "People may feel I should have been more responsible than to marry an ex-convict," Rea said. "But I was concerned that Brister had done time. That was the reason I met with his parole officer. I informed the officer that I had three small children, their ages, et cetera, and he never hinted to the fact that my children were in any danger of any kind."

    Photo by MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian