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History of Bernie's secret: Facts of sexual abuse could have been key to defense

By Phil Latham
May 20, 2014 at 11 p.m.

HATHAWAY, La. - Todd Hine and his parents sat in the pew directly behind Elmer Doucet every Sunday at the Raymond United Methodist Church in a Cajun community on Louisiana 102, a flat, straight road known as the Pine Island Highway.

Hine will never forget the day, almost 30 years ago, when Doucet turned around in the pew and asked Hine's parents a question that would forever change his life: "Can Todd come over to my house and do some yard work?"

Hine's parents had no objection. And if Hine, who was 12 years old at the time, had any trepidation about the invitation, he doesn't remember it now.

He also doesn't remember doing any yard work that day, or ever, because Doucet had other plans in mind - molesting the boy.

Doucet would molest Hine repeatedly over the next year, according to court documents, and Hine was allegedly not Doucet's only victim.

For almost 30 years Hine kept the secret to himself, ashamed to tell anyone.

Doucet's nephew, Bernie Tiede, held his own molestation as a secret even longer, locked away in a place so deep that it took 15 years in prison - and a push from Hine - for it to finally emerge.

<h3>Visits to Hathaway</h3>

Summers for Tiede, released on bond May 6 after serving 15 years for the murder of Marjorie Nugent in Carthage, often meant trips to visit his Uncle Elmer.

There would not have been much to do in Hathaway for a boy growing into adolescence.

Jennings, Louisiana, a town of about 10,000 people, is 10 miles away, and Hathaway is an unincorporated community. Its one traffic light blinks yellow on one road and red for the other. It has little more than a K-12 school and a gas station.

Hathaway doesn't often make the news, either. One of the last times a television crew shot footage in the area was in 2009, when a worker spotted the image of Jesus on a telephone pole.

Those with an active imagination can perhaps look at the picture and visualize Jesus in a growth of kudzu, and the sighting created a momentary stir that quickly died down.

If such a vision made some rethink their lives, it came far too late to save Tiede from abuse.

Court documents from Tiede's May 6 hearing say Doucet began sexually molesting Tiede when he was 12 years old - about 1970 - and continued until Tiede was 18.

That's the same age range Hine said he was when he was abused.

Tiede is 10 years older than Hine, and the two were abused years apart.

Hine never became well acquainted with Tiede.

<h3>'I just knew it'</h3>

But Hine knew who Tiede was. He visited Raymond Methodist Church often, giving talks and singing.

At some point after Hine began to suffer abuse, he said he noticed differences in Tiede when the older teenager visited - not changes Tiede had made, but characteristics Hine began to catch. Hine said he was probably about 9 when he first met Tiede and saw him occasionally over the next decade.

To this day, Hine cannot explain exactly what it was that made him know Tiede also was a victim of abuse.

"People who have been abused have certain mannerisms," he said. "I watched him, and I just knew he had been abused, too. I just knew it."

So when Hine heard new evidence had been discovered in the case, he called Tiede's attorney, Jodi Cole, and told her what he suspected.

"I talked to Jodi Cole for hours on the telephone," he said. "I went to Carthage, and we both talked to (District Attorney) Danny (Buck) Davidson, too."

Hine also tried to get justice for himself. In February 2011, he filed charges against Doucet. The grand jury of Jeff Davis Parish returned an indictment later that year against Doucet alleging four counts of molestation.

The Jennings (La.) Daily News reported the four alleged crimes were committed between September 1980 and September 1981.

However, the charges were dropped, as well as another indictment concerning allegations by a different person, when it was ruled the statute of limitations had expired.

<h3>Getting to the truth</h3>

Cole had her own suspicions about Tiede's background after seeing an inventory of items taken out of Tiede's home, including four self-help books on dealing with child sex abuse. Still, that was not enough to get Tiede to acknowledge what happened.

Court documents say it took "many months" of interviews and discussions between Tiede and psychiatrist Noel Bridget Busch-Armendariz before Tiede spoke the whole truth.

His original criminal defense attorney, Clifton "Scrappy" Holmes, had used a defense that suggested his client experienced a "dissociative" event when he shot and killed Nugent.

Such events are most often related to some sort of trauma, including sexual assault, according to testimony May 6 by psychiatrist Edward Gripon.

However, at the criminal trial, neither Holmes nor defense psychiatrist Edward Gary Mears knew, or even suspected, Tiede had been sexually molested.

"I didn't snap to the prior abuse, and I think I can speak for Dr. Mears in saying he did not see it either, and he talked to Bernie several times," Holmes said. "If I had suspected it, I would have asked about it."

Because the defense could not show any reason for a dissociative episode, the judge ruled most of Mears' testimony had to be kept from the jury."

Holmes said Tiede's outgoing personality did not reveal any of the traits he would have suspected from someone who had been abused.

"Also, I assumed he was gay - in fact, I had no doubt - and I think that adds to the failure for him to bring it up and for us to catch it," Holmes said. "I wish he had indicated it early on. I really do think it would have made a difference."

He said the eventual outcome was the correct one.

"I have always felt this was not Bernie," he said of the murder Tiede admitted committing. "This did not fit anywhere in his life experiences or who he is."

<h3>When boys are molested</h3>

Girls and boys tend to handle the trauma of sexual abuse much differently, said Jeffrey S. Quiett, professor of psychology at LeTourneau University and a licensed professional counselor and director of clinical training at LeTourneau's Center for Counseling.

"Boys are much less likely to report sexual abuse than girls. Boys tend to internalize events more than girls, and thus tend to keep things to themselves," Quiett said via email. "Most sexual abuse perpetrators of boys are men, which may create shame based upon sexual identity issues."

He said research shows that children, regardless of gender, are at risk for moderate to severe psychological disorders, and he called professional intervention "crucial" in such cases.

Being sexually abused as a child does not determine whether someone will become an abuser, Quiett said, but it does increase the risk it could happen, again stressing the need for professional help.

"The long-term effects (of abuse) vary according to the nature, severity and duration of the abuse. How parents handle the information contributes to the long-term impact and healing from sexual abuse," he said. "Parents should hold open conversations and be swift to act when sexual abuse is revealed. Professional intervention is key to helping someone overcome sexual abuse and lead to eventual healing and forgiveness."

<h3>Back in Hathaway</h3>

As efforts continue to get Tiede's life sentence reduced to time served, authorities and residents in Jennings and Hathaway are working to get Doucet, who is now 81, put in jail for sexual abuse.

The Jennings newspaper published a series of articles on Doucet and quote District Attorney Michael C. Cassidy as saying there was enough evidence to convict Doucet of molesting Hine.

"We would not have accepted the criminal charge unless we believed beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim was telling the truth," Cassidy said in the story. "We feel certain there are other victims out there."

Tabby Benoit believes that, too, and said she hopes her son isn't one of them.

"I am his one and only frickin' neighbor," Benoit said. "I have a 20-year-old son, and he was over there all the time. He swears he was not touched."

She said she found out about the allegations when Hine looked her up at a football game in 2011 and told her, knowing she had a son.

"Talk was that he was doing nasty things while watching me mow the yard, so I'm not allowed in the front yard any more," she said.

Still, Benoit said she isn't planning on moving to get away from Doucet.

"My house is almost paid for, and I have everything I need," she said.

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