Retired University Park Detective Ronald Schreffler believed he had enough evidence in 1998 to charge Jerry Sandusky with something after the Penn State assistant football coach admitted to a woman that he had showered naked with her young son.
"At the very minimum, there was enough evidence for some charges, like corruption of minors," Schreffler said last week after Sandusky waived his preliminary hearing on 52 counts of molesting 10 boys over several years.
Instead, the Centre County district attorney at the time, Ray Gricar, told Schreffler he could not file charges. The detective said Gricar gave no explanation.
Gricar disappeared in April 2005. He was declared dead in July.
Schreffler called Gricar the best prosecutor he'd ever worked with and said: "Ray was not a person to be intimidated. If he didn't feel the elements were there . . .."
But Schreffler said the decision to drop the case was "frustrating, to say the least."
"I looked as far as I could with the facts that I had," he said. "I felt I did everything I could possibly do in the case."
The 1998 investigation began when the mother of the boy, known as Victim 6 in a grand jury presentment, contacted Pennsylvania State University police.
According to the document, the boy met Sandusky at age 7 or 8 during a picnic held by the Second Mile, the nonprofit Sandusky founded for at-risk youth.
The now-grown man testified that he was 11 in 1998 when Sandusky picked him up at home and took him to lift weights on the Penn State campus. They began to wrestle, and afterward Sandusky said they needed to shower, the grand jury report said.
The report said Sandusky lathered up the boy, soaped his back, and bear-hugged him from behind. Then he picked him up and put him under the shower head to rinse his hair. Victim 6 testified that the episode felt very awkward and that no one else was around when it happened.
The boy's mother noted his wet hair when he got home. She reported the matter to a Penn State police officer, who passed along Schreffler's number.
The detective arranged with the woman to ask Sandusky to come to her house in the hope of getting him to corroborate the boy's account. He planned to listen in. Ahead of time, he wrote out a script for the woman.
"I scripted it," he said. " 'Ask him about the soap and the hair. Tell him [the boy] was upset,' to solicit more comments from him," Schreffler recalled.
Schreffler and another detective listened in on two conversations from within the house.
In the first, according to grand jury testimony, the woman asked Sandusky whether he had had sexual feelings when he hugged her naked son.
"Sandusky said he had showered with other boys and Victim 6's mother tried to make Sandusky promise never to shower with a boy again, but he would not," the grand jury said.
During the second conversation, Sandusky's response changed, Schreffler said.
"I'll never forget this. He said, 'I would ask for your forgiveness, but I know you won't give it to me. I wish I were dead.' "
Sandusky also told the woman, " 'I understand I was wrong,' " Schreffler said.
"Hearing him make that comment, I just felt there was more there. He was upbeat when he came in, and she started hammering him. I often wonder what he would have done if I'd stepped out from around the corner.
"It's something we'll never know."
Sandusky's attorney, Joseph Amendola, said: "The reality is no criminal activity occurred. The shower incident involved no sexual misconduct."