No Justice for West Valley Victims: Hell Hath No Fury Like Protective Mothers

Two years after their sons were victims of hazing and sexual assault by bigger, older varsity football players, a pair of mothers still await justice, not just for their boys, but every student brutalized while attending West Valley High School. The mothers believe that Shasta County’s Lady Justice failed their sons, and the other victims. They cannot fathom why the Shasta County District Attorney refused to take the case that alleged younger West Valley High School football players were subjected to frequent hazing, violence and sexual assaults by older varsity football players brandished primarily in the school’s high school locker rooms in the rural town of Cottonwood.

When the details of the alleged assaults became public in the fall of 2020, the victims’ parents promised their traumatized sons that justice would prevail. They promised that wrongs would be righted; because the boys had the courage to stand up and tell the truth about the atrocities forced upon them by upper-class football players. The parents promised their sons that the assailants would be held accountable, and that they would face consequences.

Because the District Attorney hasn’t pursued the West Valley case, not one of those promises has come to fruition.

The mothers are tired of waiting for justice.

The victims and their families hope that once additional details are revealed about the range and severity of abuses inflicted upon the younger boys within West Valley High School’s football program, that Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett will reconsider her office’s previous decision to decline the case. This series provides some of those details. Read Part 1 here.

West Valley High School’s football field.

The victims’ parents struggle with the knowledge that they weren’t there to protect their boys during multiple terrifying incidents. The parents feel angry and betrayed that they’d entrusted their sons’ mental and physical safety to a team of coaches who oversaw a football program steeped in stories of alleged bullying, hazing, degradation and intimidation. They feel guilty for not noticing signs that their boys were being regularly assaulted by older football players – students the younger boys once looked up to as role models and mentors.

One victim’s mother is haunted by an especially unforgettable day when she was uncharacteristically late picking her son up from school. How could she have known that as she drove to West Valley High School to pick up her boy, he was inside the varsity locker room where a pack of older football players had her son pinned to the floor where he fought with all his might to avoid the inevitable; assault with the so-called “PIYA” stick.

The PIYA stick — forced by upperclassmen upon younger player — is made of a length of PVC pipe wrapped with black electrical tape. A tennis ball is duct-taped to one end.

A boy called ‘David’

For this story, we’ll call this woman’s son David.

From his family living room, David recently described to A News Cafe what happened the day his mother was running late to pick him up from school. David said he was chased by a mob of bigger football players who eventually overtook him, caught him and dragged David — literally kicking and screaming — into the varsity locker room.

One recurring detail David can’t shake was the line of vehicles with waiting parents, there to pick up kids after school. In retrospect, David wonders what those parents thought when they saw a group of large football players running after a smaller boy who was sprinting full tilt. Did they think they were witnessing good natured “horse play” – as one sheriff’s deputy blithely characterized the assaults in a phone call with one of the victims?

Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide

“It was really bad,” David said. “I was yelling, but once they got me inside the room, everything started happening fast, so at that point I don’t think I was yelling anymore. I was just fighting at that point. I’m not really a loud person, so I was just trying to muscle my way out of it, but they were too big.”

By “too big,” David estimates that most of the varsity players who hauled him into the varsity football locker room and held him to the floor weighed in excess of 200 pounds. He guessed that the varsity player who led the assault upon David with the PIYA stick that day weighed around 300 pounds. At that time, David weighed about 140 pounds.

David said he was slammed against the wall twice, and then thrown onto the floor with such impact that his backpack flew across the room.

David was forced onto his back, legs spread and pulled up, knees near his ears, butt in the air. The 300-pound varsity player aimed for David’s rear, and rammed the PIYA stick there, through David’s flimsy sports shorts.

“Afterward, I felt so degraded,” David said. “Like, when it was over, and I finally got up off the floor, I was the only one still in the locker room. Everyone had gone. I had to go find my backpack.”

And then what?

“I went outside and found my mom’s car.”

Did he say anything to her about what happened?


Why didn’t David say something to his mother that day, or, for that matter, any of the other days that he and other boys were violated?

“I kind of just didn’t think about it; I couldn’t do it,” David said. “I was like, ‘well, it’s happened so many times before me’. But I think mine was way worse that day, because I was fighting back so much. They didn’t like it. So I probably made them want to do it more.”

David says that what happened to him and many other West Valley football players consisted of a pattern of ongoing physical and emotional abuse and hazing inflicted by older, bigger varsity players upon unwilling younger, smaller football players.

David said that although officially, the PIYA stick was best known as part of an initiation rite of passage as younger players moved up to higher-level football, the PIYA stick was versatile.

It was used to discipline younger players, as well as a threat to keep them in line. The “PIYA sticking” was even used to commemorate birthdays; a prospect so dreaded by many boys that they’d intentionally skip school on their birthdays in a usually unsuccessful attempt to avoid the PIYA ritual.

But David also noticed something else about the PIYA stick sessions: Some of the older football players seemed to actually enjoy using the PIYA stick upon the boys.

“These older guys had a weird thing with the PIYA stick, like it was fun, and they just liked doing it,” he said.

“I just don’t see anything normal about the kind of fun where a bunch of guys pin down a smaller guy and do the kinds of things they did to us. It’s twisted.”

David vowed to himself that if he ever became captain of West Valley’s football team, he’d make sure the PIYA tradition didn’t happen on his watch.

Initially, when the West Valley story first became public in the fall of 2020, there was a flurry of legal, law enforcement and media interest, as well as various actions taken by many of the parties involved.

Simultaneous investigations were initiated by the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department and the Anderson Union High School District with its Title IX investigation to protect the school’s state funding. Media outlets broadcast the stories. A former KRCR reporter who was also a former Red, White and Blueprint partner, waded into the fray with her own report, defending West Valley’s coaches, school, staff and football program.

The boys’ parents retained the law firm Barr and Mudford to represent their sons. Barr and Mudford then filed a formal complaint in Shasta County Superior Court. (Note: Barr & Mudford is a long-time A News Cafe advertiser.)

Three West Valley coaches retained Tehama County attorney Greg Cohen to represent them. West Valley’s head coach Greg Grandell submitted his letter of resignation to the AUHSD board.

Former West Valley football coach Greg Grandell

News of Grandell’s departure was met with tearful tributes delivered by current and former football players, parents and community members who showed up at an AUHSD meeting in support of Grandell, his coaches and the school’s award-winning football team.

The few people who spoke in support of the victims were their family members, including two mothers and a sister, also a former West Valley student.

Former West Valley High School football coaches.

The entire West Valley High School football coaching staff resigned.

The investigations were underway. The victims’ parents, who were told by law enforcement to please be patient, did their best to be accommodating and polite. The parents complied for fear that if they rocked the boat, or were too much of a squeaky wheel, it might inadvertently jeopardize the investigations. They let the professionals do their jobs, because they trusted that the legal system would work on behalf of their sons.

It turns out the system didn’t work after all; at least not for the victims.

Now, the mothers wish they’d done things differently.

Maternal regrets

“We were such good girls,” one mother said, forming two fingers on each hand into air quotes. Her voice was choked with emotion.

“We didn’t want to interfere with the investigation that we assumed was going forward on our sons’ behalf. Now, I wish we’d just called and bugged them every single day. I wish we’d gone to the media right away, and demanded justice early on. Instead, we waited and waited and hoped we’d hear something.”

They heard nothing. Many of the parents’ calls to the Shasta County District Attorney’s office weren’t returned. The parents felt in the dark and out of the loop.

At last, in September of 2021, after nearly a year of scant communication with West Valley High School victims’ parents, Shasta County Chief Deputy District Attorney Ben Hanna finally delivered a sucker-punch of a message to the parents via a phone call: The Shasta County District Attorney would not take on the West Valley case.

The victims’ parents said that Hanna presented the following reasons for the District Attorney’s decision:

• This is a systemic breakdown by the school.
• There were too many people involved.
• You cannot single out one individual, as it was a group.
• This is a cultural mentality.
• Today’s perpetrators are yesterday’s victims.
• Under the guidelines and statutes which must be present, you cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt the original intent was sexual in nature.
• There is “just not enough teeth” in the juvenile system to make anything happen.
• The accused could not be tried as adults because the case must be held to the time of the crime and would be kicked back to juvenile court. (All the accused are now over age 18.)

The parents pushed back. They sent a letter to Hanna. They provided a laundry list of alleged crimes committed and laws broken at West Valley High School’s football program, from simple battery, hazing initiations, and sexual battery, to coaches and school personnel failing to follow state laws that require mandated reporters to take suspicions about alleged abuse and violence upon minors directly to law enforcement.

In part, the parents’ letter said:

“It is not only your duty but your job to protect, prosecute and serve the community of Shasta County. This includes these boys! You said that we, as moms and parents need to educate, stand up and fight for change for our boys; exactly what we’re doing here. It begins with not allowing the perpetrators to think their behavior is justified or excused since attorneys are not willing to delve into an ugly situation and get their hands dirty.

Our boys need to know that the sacrifices of football, friends, education and myriad other things, such as emotional, psychological, and mental suffering, has not been in vain. They need to have a renewal of faith in the justice system and those who have been appointed to protect them. The community needs to know they can trust appointed and elected officials to carry out their duty to bring about a safer place for our children. They need your office to do your job.”

District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett’s response

Chief Deputy District Attorney Hanna did not respond to this reporter’s repeated requests for comment. However, District Attorney Bridgett answered journalist R.V. Scheide’s questions regarding matters related to the contentious June 7 election. Bridgett wants to retain her seat, and is in a heated campaign battle against challenger Eric Jensen.

Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett

In response to Scheide’s questions about District Attorney challenger Erik Jensen’s criticism of Bridgett for not taking the West Valley case, Bridgett said:

“All juvenile cases, including this one, are confidential by law which prevents me from commenting on it,” Bridgett offered by way of explanation.

“As I have indicated previously, if additional information comes to light, we are always willing to re-visit and re-evaluate the case. Meeting with a victim and their family to let them know we will not be proceeding on a case is one of the most difficult things we do,” Bridgett said. “We understand how emotional it is for them and we would never do anything to diminish their feelings. However, we must make our decisions, not based on emotion, but on the law, our ethical duties and what is justice. Sometimes this means we do not file a case, a decision we do not take lightly.”

Confusion abounds

The parents feel exasperated about incongruities between what Bridgett claims about her commitment to fighting for young victims, and the reality that she refused to defend their sons and hold the PIYA perpetrators accountable.

David’s mother still has the letter her son received from the District Attorney’s office shortly after the mom had learned of her son’s abuse at West Valley High School. At the time, she found the letter hopeful. Now, she finds the letter almost laughable, except there’s nothing funny about the contrast between the words in the letter and the reality that her son and other West Valley victims have been holding onto hope for justice, with no help in sight.

“Our office was notified by law enforcement that you have been listed as a victim of crime,” the letter begins. “Please accept our sympathies for any loss, pain, or inconvenience that the assailant’s acts have caused you.”

Abuse, exploitation, neglect, and dangerous activities

While the PIYA stick is perhaps the most publicized instrument of hazing used by older West Valley players upon younger ones, other objects found in the varsity locker room included boxing gloves, a whip and a sword.

Victims of West Valley’s former football program under coaches Vert and Grandell’s reign reported a pervasive culture of bullying, intimidation and high-risk physical endurance challenges, many of which were known to the coaches.

Football camp is not for sissies

West Valley’s annual football camp in Siskiyou County was a place where boys were pushed to their limits to prepare for football when school started again. For some boys, football camp became something to dread.

Sources spoke of incidents where some players self-inflicted “branding” around the campfire with the use of hot sticks pressed against bare skin. One boy’s arm was severely burned at a campfire, although the details were sketchy about what caused the burn. According to one source, although the boy was in pain for the duration of the camp, he did not receive medical attention for his injury.

But David said that one of the most frightening incidents happened at Lake Siskiyou where the coaches had set up obstacle courses on land and relays in the water. He said that there were life jackets available for rent, but none were provided for the boys.

On the day of one water relay, David said some boys were in kayaks, others sprinted on land, and yet others were supposed to swim. David said he and a good friend were on different teams, but both were on the swimming leg of the relay.

“About halfway through, I got so tired, and I didn’t have a life jacket on,” David said. “I was literally physically exhausted. My friend was out there in the water by himself, and I was scared for him. I was going to go out there to him.”

David said he could see that his friend was panicking and was in trouble, but the coaches didn’t seem concerned. Finally, only when David’s friend began yelling for help, one of the coaches took a boat out to retrieve the boy. Once on shore, the boy was ridiculed for his inability to finish the relay, and for needing a boat to save him.

“When my friend finally got out, one of the main coaches – Frank – he took his shirt off and then did the course by himself to show it could be done. That made my friend feel really bad about himself.”

David is convinced that his friend could have drowned that day. He remembers exactly what he was thinking.

“I’m looking at the coach like, ‘How old are you, bro?’ It made me so mad,” David said. “I had to watch my friend get put in his place for no reason.”

Some boys brought tasers to camp, which the boys took turns using on one another. After dark, some boys climbed tall trees from which they leapt into the lake.

And whatever became of David’s friend, the one who nearly drowned in Lake Siskiyou during football camp?

“He was in the same boat with us, with the PIYA stick and everything,” David said. “But he didn’t say anything to anyone about it yet. I think maybe his parents didn’t want him to.”

Back in at West Valley High School, there were other high-risk activities.

For example, there were forced boxing matches initiated by older players upon younger football players. Once challenged, the younger boy had no choice but to accept the boxing gloves and participate in the fight. The younger players were almost always defeated, and often bloodied and wounded. David said that somewhere out there are videos taken by the boys of these fights.

Injuries happened, such as when a football player was wounded when one of the players struck the boy in the head with a large heavy wood “Gatorade” paddle used to stir big batches of beverages for the boys. The injured boy was taken to the hospital for treatment. No charges were filed.

Most of the on-campus hazing, forced fights, PIYA sticking and assaults occurred inside the privacy of West Valley High School’s varsity locker room. There, older, bigger football players targeted younger, smaller players.

Access to the locker room was readily available to the student assailants as Grandell provided a locker room key to chosen varsity players. It was common knowledge that the older players could come and go freely, unsupervised by school personnel.

In early 2020, even Cottonwood wasn’t impervious to the pandemic, which resulted in times when West Valley’s football players communicated via video calls. During one call, following a football practice, a player mentioned that he wasn’t feeling well, and he thought he should be tested for COVID. Minutes later Grandell texted the student, and said the boy probably had allergies, and that a test wasn’t necessary. The boy wasn’t tested. He continued showing up for practice.

‘We had to do anything anyone wanted’

Finally, to raise money for West Valley’s football program, coaches hire out their football players as day laborers each summer.

A News Cafe’s inquiries to Shasta High School, Foothill High School and Enterprise High School about athletes for hire were unsuccessful. Representatives at those schools cited liability issues to explain why most public schools wouldn’t allow their athletes to be used as cheap labor.

However, liability issues were no concern for West Valley’s football program, where, each year, the team advertises teenage boys available for summer work.  (Personal disclosure: In 2017 and 2018 I hired West Valley High School football players for landscaping work.)

The money earned by West Valley football laborers is assumed to go to the school’s football program. The boys were expected to be available for work as part of their football team duties. The boys had no control over who they worked for, where they went or what they did. Tasks could range from as simple as pulling weeds and doing yard work, to as strenuous as digging trenches, and as unpleasant as shoveling manure from barns, and cleaning stables.

For the bargain price of $60 per boy – plus providing them with lunch – anyone who hired the boys could have a West Valley football player for six hours to do any chores the person wished. Anything.

“Really, it was like we were slaves,” David said. “We had to do anything anyone wanted, but we didn’t get to keep the money.”

Doubting deputies?

A News Cafe’s request for records from the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department about the West Valley investigation was denied, based on the fact that minors were involved, and their names had to remain confidential. A sheriff’s department representative said that even if the boys’ names were redacted, someone might guess their identities.

Absent any concrete answers from either the District Attorney or the Sheriff’s Department about why the District Attorney took a pass on the West Valley case, some parents are left to guess and extrapolate. One guess is that the District Attorney based her decision to reject the West Valley case by the contents of the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department investigation report.

But this puzzles the parents, since they were under the impression that the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department submitted its report to the District Attorney’s office with allegations of sexual battery or assault, which would surely be considered criminal acts. How could the accused varsity assailants not be held accountable?

With that in mind, the parents wonder why, if the sheriff’s department did submit its investigation findings under the allegations of sexual battery and/or assault, where was the breakdown that caused the District Attorney to not take such serious allegations seriously?

When two of the West Valley victims talk about their experience with the sheriff’s deputies, the boys describe several uncomfortable, discouraging and disheartening sessions that left the boys disinclined to fully confide in the deputies about the unspeakable things that had happened to them.

The interviews took place when the boys were still minors, without their parents present. On one occasion, the deputies came unannounced to the boys’ new school, and had the boys pulled out of class to go into a room on campus to answer questions.

David was mortified.

“Here we were at a new school, trying to fit in, and we’re told that the cops wanted to talk with us,” David said. “The other kids could see. It was embarrassing.”

And about a month later, after one of the previous deputies was away for a while, a female deputy called one of the other victims to get up to speed on the West Valley case.

“So, it was basically just horse play, right?” the deputy asked.

The young football player said he couldn’t believe it.

“I was like, seriously, lady? Horse play? Are you kidding? Do you not know anything about what happened?”

Although he thought those words, he did not say them.

Consequently, both boys were left with the impression that the deputies doubted their stories.

“The guys who talked to us acted as if we were lying,” David said. “They acted as if we’d committed a crime, like we were the ones who’d done something wrong.”

As time went on, parents realized that the deputies’ interviews with the boys left them feeling re-victimized rather than listened to. The parents wondered if the sheriff had submitted to the District Attorney a lukewarm report that reflected some deputies’ possible biases and assumptions about what happened at West Valley. The parents wondered whether the deputies believed that what actually happened at West Valley High School was just a bunch of boys being boys; just horsing around. Or perhaps the deputies thought the boys were exaggerating.

That’s when some parents connected some dots to see if they led to a place with answers.

Dot No. 1: West Valley’s school resource officer at the time of the hazing allegations was a former West Valley football player.

Dot No. 2: The former resource officer had close ties to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department.

Dot No. 3: A lead law enforcement officer at the Sheriff’s Department is a former West Valley football player.

Dot No. 4: That high-ranking Sheriff’s Department employee is friends with the father of one of West Valley’s accused alleged assailants.

Dots No. 5 and 6: Some Shasta County Sheriff’s deputies are devotees of the Red, White and Blueprint movement, whose leaders espouse that fighting is good for boys to learn, the earlier, the better. Finally, some of West Valley’s previous coaches belong to the Cottonwood militia.

Nobody knows whether the dots mean anything, but they beg a last question: Are some members of the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department protecting West Valley High School out of a sense of loyalty or nostalgia?

With or without the dots, it’s noteworthy to look back to the 2018-2019 year prior to the 2020/2021 school year in which David and his fellow younger classmates were hazed and assaulted. A father of a boy from that previous class went to the school’s resource officer and told him what his son had admitted: he’d been a victim of hazing and had been assaulted with a PIYA stick by West Valley varsity football players. But rather than immediately report that information to law enforcement — as mandated reporters are legally required to do — the resource officer took the father’s information directly to coach Grandell.

And Grandell, rather than report the abuse to law enforcement – as he, as a mandated reporter is also required to do — he called a meeting with the football team. He delivered a stern talk in which he cautioned players to not mention PIYA to outsiders.

One source said that Grandell later pulled aside one of the younger players and accused him of being the one who’d tattled to his father, who’d then set problems in motion by contacting the school resource officer. Grandell said he’d guessed it was that boy, because he’d heard he’d been PIYA’d recently, and had also heard the boy was upset about it.

As a punishment, Grandell told the varsity captains they couldn’t be captains for two weeks. Another consequence was to make the boys run laps.

This was all before the parents had an inkling of what happened. And in those days before the parents knew, their sons were still attending West Valley High School where they were bullied and mocked as snitches.

By the way, the boy whose father talked with the school resource officer? He dropped out of West Valley’s football program.

One mother said that Grandell called her after the hazing news was made public. He warned the mother that she would ruin the football team. He told her Cottonwood was a small town and that people would turn against her.

Grandell was right on both counts.

PIYA: noun, verb, chant and weapon

One of the traditions that happened during West Valley’s annual football camp was that some select boys who were moving up the ranks would be deemed worthy to finally learn PIYA’s secret meaning. Once entrusted with this knowledge, the players were sworn to a lifetime of secrecy, and took a vow to never disclose PIYA’s meaning to anyone. According to former West Valley Coach Jim Vert, who brought the PIYA tradition to West Valley more than 20 years ago, even his own wife is unaware of PIYA’S meaning.

Former West Valley football coach Jim Vert introduced PIYA to the school’s football program.

Neither of the boys interviewed for this series stayed at West Valley High School long enough to be entrusted with PIYA’s meaning. Some of the boys guessed that PIYA had something nasty to do with female genitalia, but they weren’t sure. What they were sure of was that the concept of PIYA held a nearly sacred status with the coaches and elder players. The word “PIYA!” was chanted by players during football games, and at special occasions, such as at former players’ weddings. The word PIYA is even engraved upon the headstone of a former West Valley football player who died in a car crash.

Perhaps the most surprising PIYA sighting of all was last spring at Anderson River Park. There, PIYA was written on a cake, enjoyed by former coach Grandell, other former coaches and some graduating varsity players, including some who’d been accused of hazing and abuse of younger players.

Coach Vert maintains that PIYA’s meaning is not vulgar, but rather a source of West Valley pride and tradition.

While there may be some ambiguity about the word PIYA’s meaning, nobody — even the school district’s own investigators — disputes that upperclassmen varsity players brandished the PIYA stick upon lower-class football players.

Mothers pushed to the brink: Desperate situations; desperate measures

Eric Jensen, who hopes to unseat incumbent District Attorney Bridgett in the June 7 election, has made the West Valley case a central point of his political campaign during forums, podcasts and speaking engagements. He is highly critical of Bridgett for many things, including her decision to not take the West Valley case.

His campaign team recently released a video campaign ad that features a pair of mothers describing how their sons were victimized by West Valley varsity football players. In the video the mothers express their profound disappointment that the District Attorney didn’t investigate crimes committed against their boys that the mothers say happened at West Valley High School.

Reactions to the video on social media and around the North State vary. Some people shamed Jensen for “exploiting” the mothers as political tools in the video. Others accused the mothers of being attention-seekers. Yet others are moved by the videos, and agree that the victimized boys deserve justice.  The last group is Jensen’s target audience.

Erik Jensen, Shasta County District Attorney candidate.

For the mothers, after waiting two years without justice for their sons, they don’t care what people think about their motives for participating in the videos. For that matter, even if it turned out that Jensen was, in fact, using them as political pawns in Jensen’s campaign, the mothers don’t care about that, either. Not if it means their boys finally received justice.

With everything gone, what’s left to live for?

In another city, many miles south of Cottonwood, there’s a towering bridge near the home of one of the former West Valley High School football hazing victims. His family moved there to escape the only hometown the teenager had ever known. They left because in Cottonwood, the majority of people seemed to defend the coaches and the football program, and shun the victims and their families.

During his darkest hours, the teenager who once thought life was about as good as it could get forces himself to not think about how bad life became after he told the truth about what happened to him and others at West Valley High School. He tries not to think about how easy it would be to step off that bridge and leave his sadness, disappointments and loss behind.

He struggles with the knowledge that as painful, terrifying, humiliating and torturous as the physical assaults were, they pale in comparison to the mental damage and inexplicable losses he and the other victims have endured since leaving West Valley High School in Cottonwood.

“Before, I was just like, living a normal life. I had my normal friends. I liked working out. I had dedication. I liked school. I was a good student. I loved my friends. But after I told the truth about what happened, I lost everything. I lost pretty much every friend I ever had. I lost my school. And when all that happened, I lost a part of me; most of me,” he said.

“I don’t know, it’s such a deep thing that I can’t even put words on it. It’s like an emptiness, a darkness. To say it’s a struggle doesn’t even really describe it.”

David said that he believed his parents when they assured him that if he told the truth, justice would prevail, and that the assailants would face consequences. He doesn’t regret telling the truth, nor does he wish he’d remained silent, like his friend who nearly drowned during the football camp relay. He knows that if nothing else, now that everyone knows about the West Valley High School football program’s abuse and hazing, perhaps the assaults have stopped. For him, it would be a consolation to know that he helped prevent future younger players from enduring the suffering he and his friends experienced.

“It just hurts that the justice system didn’t want to do anything to help us,” David said. “Nobody from the District Attorney’s office even wanted to talk to us, which I just don’t understand.”

Meanwhile, David, the former outstanding student and star athlete, has lost interest in pretty much everything. He’s lost weight. His grades plummeted to the point where he had to attend a continuation school; one more humiliation. On one particularly low day, he collected all his uniforms from all the sports he’d played throughout his school athletic career, dumped them on his mother’s bed and asked her to destroy them all.

He’s changed in other ways, too. He’s more fearful. He second guesses himself and his ability to be safe. He looks back and wonders if he could have prevented the assaults.

“When I think back, I just think about how — what I could have done — so it didn’t happen,” he said. “But there were so many guys, and they were bigger. I don’t know if I could have physically defended myself. Actually, I know I couldn’t.”

Meanwhile, should Jensen win the election, and become Shasta County’s District Attorney, the victims’ parents are counting on him investigating the West Valley case.

But if Bridgett wins, and retains her seat, the parents cling to hope that she meant what she said recently.

… if additional information comes to light, we are always willing to re-visit and re-evaluate the case.

And if that happens, at last, the mothers will have peace in knowing that finally, their sons will see justice.


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Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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