Longform

A Texas Boy's Summer Camp Nightmare

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Watching her son struggle to cope with what he'd been through, Kelly promised herself she would make things right. She had started doing research on Bovee, trying to get an idea of who the man was who had changed her family. Now she began digging into his past. Using the Freedom of Information Act, she obtained case files and court documents, and then she went even further, making calls across Texas and the rest of the country and sifting through social media to try to put the man together.

He was from a little town in Nebraska. That much was true, but almost everything else — his time as a Marine, the full scholarship for wrestling to the University of Nebraska — was a lie. Kelly learned he'd been fired in 2008 from Camp Rio Vista, located just five miles down the road from Camp La Junta.

Kelly put together a binder six inches thick, carefully organizing it with her notes, photos, printouts and everything else she could find. She has pages and pages of information on Bovee. When she starts talking about what happened to Mark, she turns the pages with a sharp flip, anger filling her normally gentle voice.

As the investigation unfolded, Bovee was indicted and charged with sexual assault of a child and endangerment to a child. As Kelly pieced together the picture, she realized that Smith had taken Bovee at face value. In fact, he had hired and vouched for Bovee while he was little more than a stranger. When Smith told her in July 2009 that Bovee was a senior counselor and a trusted member of the staff, he neglected to mention that he was considering letting Bovee out of his contract early because of his fights with other counselors and because Smith found out most of Bovee's backstory was a lie.

Although Smith told Kelly no one had reported any concerns about Bovee's shower checks, a counselor who worked with Bovee told police he had said something to Scott Fineske, the second-in-command at La Junta, questioning the shower checks. The counselor also mentioned that he'd noticed Bovee took four to six showers a day, so he and the other counselors figured that meant Bovee was masturbating.

When the case went to trial in May 2011 and it was Kelly's turn to testify, the then-­assistant district attorney for Kerr County, Brad McCullouch, warned her not to run down the camp when she got on the stand, because Smith had a lot of friends on the jury, which never finished its work because a plea agreement was reached during its deliberations. Bovee, dressed in a too-big suit, wouldn't look at her while she testified, but Kelly glared at him every moment she was in the courtroom.

Mark faced Bovee in court, telling him he hadn't been destroyed and that Bovee should be a real man and confess about the other children he had hurt so they could be lucky enough to receive the treatment and help Mark had gotten. But Mark and his family are still working on recovering from this. It's important to his family and important to Mark that the truth come out. "This did happen, and it probably happened to other kids and the camp covered it up. They called [Mark] a liar and they covered it up," George said.

Bovee is in prison now — not because he was sentenced for sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy but because he simply couldn't stay off unmonitored computers or keep away from Facebook (where he was sending friend requests to children, including some of the boys from Cabin 6). He couldn't not drink alcohol or avoid firing a firearm. He refused to wear a monitoring device on his leg, and he was found to be living within 500 feet of a school. Bovee had moved to Travis County, but officials there were so frustrated with him that they handed responsibility back to Kerr County. Eventually, when the list of infractions grew long enough, Bovee was sent to prison for nine years. He is expected to be up for parole in April 2015.

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Dianna Wray
Contact: Dianna Wray