Alaska News

Review of records continues in Bethel sex abuse case

Officials at Alaska's Office of Children's Services are still reviewing old records to try to determine how allegations against a Bethel man accused of sexually abusing children may have been handled by the agency years earlier.

In a news release Wednesday, the agency said old records that may shed light on Peter Tony, 69, were handled differently decades ago and some may have been destroyed. Alaska Dispatch has requested access to the state's foster care records for Tony and his late wife Marilyn.

Bethel police arrested Tony on June 13, charging him with seven counts of sexually abusing a 4-year-old girl in his late wife's day care during 2011-2012. Police have indicated they are investigating claims of sex abuse against Tony dating back to the 1970s.

In addition to reviewing records related to the couple's foster care, the Office of Children's Services said agency officials are "searching for any record of prior allegations in an effort to identify any specific children who may have been victims and the action taken."

Last week, Tony's stepdaughter, Kimberley Bruesch, told Alaska Dispatch he abused her and her two sisters in the 1970s. She claims she and one of her sisters reported the abuse in 1982 to a state social worker named Mary Atchak, but that nothing ever came of it. Wednesday's press release appeared to acknowledge Bruesch's account by mentioning "recent information stemming from 1982."

Peter and Marilyn Tony went on to be approved for a foster care permit in 1984, and police have received reports of abuse from former foster children in their care over the years.

Read more: State agency under scrutiny in wake of Bethel allegations

On Tuesday, Alaska Dispatch reported that Atchak had a potential romantic relationship with Peter Tony, raising questions whether Atchak had a conflict of interest when she investigated his stepdaughters' abuse claims in 1982.

The Office of Children's Services' news release revealed one new detail Wednesday: Marilyn and Peter Tony lost their foster care license in May 1998. Police reports had previously indicated the year, but not the month.

The month is noteworthy in that on May 7, 1998, the state's child welfare agency received a report that a girl had allegedly been sexually abused by Peter Tony, according to a Bethel police affidavit released last week to the media. Police also said last week that allegations of abuse led to the Tonys losing their foster care license in 1998.

Just weeks before the couple lost their license -- on April 14, 1998 -- Peter Tony's stepdaughter, Teresa, committed suicide. She left a note saying that the abuse she suffered as a child under Tony contributed to her decision to take her own life.

Susan Morgan, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, which oversees the Office of Children's Services, said in an email Wednesday that the agency expects to complete the review of records over the next 10 days, releasing them to the public on July 12.

Contact Eli Martin at eli(at)alaskadispatch.com

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