William Henry “Hank” Dufort, the disgraced former Children’s Farm Home director convicted in 1990 of over two dozen sex crimes, will be a free man come November’s end.
Dufort’s trial shook the mid-valley, as onlookers had to reconcile the fact that a seemingly respectable individual could be capable of repeatedly molesting boys who were seeking help with their mental health. After serving just over 30 years in the custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections, the 80-year-old is scheduled to be released on Saturday.
Looking back from the vantage point of 2020, Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson offered some perspective on what made Dufort’s crimes so shocking, then and now.
“It involved so many victims, not just in terms of numbers, but in terms of the vulnerability of these children who were left in the defendant's care … and left in his care in a secured setting,” Haroldson said. “Those were the circumstances in which he preyed upon children to satiate his perverse impulses.”
Social worker to suspect
Dufort began his work with the Children’s Farm Home, a youth psychiatric facility located on Highway 20 north of Corvallis, in 1964. The University of Oregon alumnus was a social worker at the facility before going off to earn his master’s degree at the University of Michigan as well as a postgraduate certificate from the University of California, San Francisco, Department of Psychiatry at Mount Zion Hospital.
He returned to work with the Farm Home and served as director of clinical planning services, overseeing youth treatments for 12 years, before being named executive director.
Dufort resigned from the facility’s top position in December 1989, shortly after a man who was previously treated at the Farm Home said Dufort had molested him in 1964.
“I believe (the accuser) had just gone through some counseling or therapy and was reiterating his abuse,” said John Chilcote, an investigator for Haroldson's office who was a Benton County Sheriff's Office detective at the time. “That led from one place to another.”
Chilcote’s former colleagues, lead BCSO investigators Larry McCloskey and Scott Fels, were able to build a case against Dufort. He never denied being a sexual abuser, but didn’t exactly take ownership of the claim from 1964.
"He told me about a couple (victims)," Fels told the Gazette-Times in 2007, “but he was always staying outside the statute of limitations."
As the investigation progressed, more survivors came forward with similar allegations.
“It’s really tough, at least in that era, for adult men to reveal that they had been sexually abused by another guy,” Chilcote said. “The ones we could actually statutorily use, there were maybe a dozen. But I think there were maybe 40 or 50 that we knew (were abused by Dufort) for sure.”
Nailed with 28 charges involving six boys between the ages of 12 and 17, Dufort went on trial beginning Sept. 17, 1990, in Benton County Circuit Court before Judge Robert Gardner.
A jury of seven women and five men was tasked with determining beyond a reasonable doubt whether Dufort committed 11 counts of second-degree sexual abuse, 10 counts of second-degree sodomy, three counts of third-degree sodomy, one count of first-degree sodomy, two counts of contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor and one count of attempted first-degree sodomy against the boys between 1987 and 1989.
Dufort was represented by defense attorney Mark Donahue, and then-Deputy District Attorney Karen Zorn led the prosecution.
He “appeared at ease” throughout the proceedings, wrote former Corvallis Gazette-Times reporter Chuck Westlund in his coverage.
“He’s a very pleasant man when you meet him in public,” Chilcote said. “He’s very articulate, he looks fine. He’s not your stereotypical man in a trenchcoat you meet in an alley.”
The teenagers gave hours of detailed testimony, some of it deeply disturbing.
Two boys, ages 13 and 16, said Dufort performed oral sex on them inside their bedrooms at the Farm Home. One testified that he awoke to Dufort molesting him and told Dufort to leave his room or he’d scream. Dufort, he said, then responded, “Don’t tell anyone,” in a whisper as he left the room, only to repeat the abuse days later.
Another 16-year-old said he felt as if he’d betrayed Dufort’s trust when he finally told authorities about his abuse.
A 15-year-old testified Dufort manipulated him into similar sexual acts. The boy, whose stepfather had previously abused him and was serving jail time for it, said he “automatically” knew what to do from learned behavior when Dufort began abusing him.
A 17-year-old recounted Dufort telling him his abuse “was OK, it was the type of thing that happened here” at the Farm Home. The boy, who’d also been abused by his parents, added that Dufort’s counseling was often fixated on his history of sexual abuse.
Dufort “showed no emotion as witnesses testified,” wrote another former Gazette-Times reporter, George Wisner, who covered the trial alongside Westlund and reporters from the Albany Democrat-Herald.
Dufort’s former employees also spoke out in court against him, corroborating that he’d often visit boys’ rooms before dawn when most staff members hadn’t shown up for work yet.
“He said he thought (the morning) was the best time to get information from the kids, that they were more vulnerable then,” testified former clinical director David Dougher.
Taking the stand for cross-examination, Dufort acknowledged routinely making early-morning visits to his victims and shutting the door behind him, despite these interactions not being part of his official duties.
“I liked the staff to know that even the executive director was concerned about what was going on,” Dufort testified.
Some employees said Dufort had victims he favored more than others.
“They were kids that he sought out, kids that he invited into his office, kids who got presents, extra attention, were touched more,” testified then-intake coordinator Carrie Blum. “Generally, they were all very good-looking kids, all-American-type kids in appearance.”
Blum added that Dufort, in meetings with Farm Home therapists, would tell them not to report sexual abuse claims made by clients to law enforcement, as it would be “dangerous for the survival of the agency.”
Chilcote said it was clear to investigators that Dufort was “sophisticated” and “nefarious” in using the assets available to him as director in choosing which boys to abuse.
“He would know their backgrounds, obviously, he would know their history,” he said. “Of course, you don’t want to pick a kid to have sexual contact with and they would go crazy. He wanted to pick kids who he could dominate cognitively. He was a planner. It is the most narcissistic, selfish thing you could possibly do to somebody.”
On Oct. 3, 1990, after 12 hours of deliberation, the jury found Dufort guilty of all counts in a 10-2 verdict. It was estimated that he faced a maximum sentence of 168 years.
Initially, Dufort faced the possibility of 12 separate trials. After the defense moved to consolidate some cases and Dufort made plea agreements on others, the justice system only required Dufort to face six victims in court.
Those survivors were “the heroes of the whole thing,” Chilcote said.
On Nov. 2, 1990, Dufort was sentenced to a total of 48 years in prison. He was 50 years old.
The hearing resulted in Dufort’s “first show of emotion during the case,” Wisner reported at the time. “Dufort apologized for his ‘past behaviors.’ But he stopped short of admitting any of the charges for which he was convicted.”
“I don’t have a good explanation,” Dufort said during the hearing. “I don’t even understand how I could have convinced myself that what I was doing was all right to do.”
Before the sentence was handed down, Donahue urged the court to be lenient, saying Dufort’s problem would not be solved by “throwing him on the scrap heap” in prison, where he was “not going to be very safe.”
But Gardner said it was clear that Dufort was a “fixed pedophile” with an unwavering predisposition to violate young boys.
“We’ve heard during this trial some of the most depressing testimony I’ve ever heard as a judge,” Gardner said after the proceedings that day. “This was one of the strongest cases I’ve ever seen. The evidence was overwhelming.”
Court documents detail that Dufort’s sentences on many counts were indeterminate, meaning they called for a range of years in prison rather than a fixed period. The majority of the sentences were also concurrent — as opposed to consecutive — so the punishment for one instance of abuse would have been served at the same time as another.
Following the hearing, prosecutor Zorn called the cumulative prison time “a mockery of justice” that didn’t show “any difference” as to whether he abused one or multiple young boys.
Zorn could not be reached for comment on this story. Peter Sandrock, who was the Benton County district attorney at the time, declined to comment in a phone call with the Gazette-Times.
Dufort, now state offender No. 8550183, was placed in the Oregon Department of Corrections’ custody two days after sentencing. He served time at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem until being transferred in 1996 to the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, from which he’ll be released.
A request by the Gazette-Times to interview Dufort in prison did not receive a response by the time of publication.
Of his 48-year sentence, Dufort was ordered to serve a minimum of 20 before becoming eligible for parole. He was thrice denied this privilege, in 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Former Gazette-Times reporter Emily Gillespie wrote in 2011 that Dufort claimed the boys who testified against him “were lying and merely seeking attention” during his earlier parole hearings. At sentencing, however, Dufort admitted to abusing many boys — just not the six who testified against him.
Partly due to Dufort’s refusal to admit to the crimes for which he was convicted, Gillespie reported, the Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision denied him any additional hearings until September 2018.
Cost of freedom
Upon release, Dufort will be subject to a minimum of three years’ post-prison supervision. Originally a Bandon resident, it is unclear at this time where he will live, although DOC documents say he will have to report to a Coos County parole officer in Coquille.
The 80-year-old will be classified as a Level 1 sex offender. He’ll be expected to attend counseling, follow a curfew, keep a log of wherever he drives, refrain from pornographic media, not contact minors without written approval and not volunteer in places where minors congregate, among other conditions.
Still, Dufort’s punishment won’t counteract the damage done.
The Farm Home ramped up its security following Dufort's resignation and did some major housecleaning to boost transparency with the community. Since 1998, it has been operated by Trillium Family Services.
“Though 31 years is a long time, we won’t forget the impact of this individual’s actions and betrayal of trust on the many youth and families, the people at Children’s Farm Home, this community and the children-serving sector across Oregon," said Kim Scott, Trillium's CEO. "It is those people who are and have been in our hearts and thoughts."
Chilcote, affirming Zorn's sentiments after Dufort's sentencing, said "he came off light.”
If Dufort had committed the crimes for which he was convicted after April 1995, he would have been subject to Measure 11’s mandatory sentencing guidelines.
By today’s standards, Dufort’s first-degree sodomy conviction would carry a sentence of eight years and four months, while his 10 second-degree sodomy convictions would have resulted in sentences of six years and three months apiece. Still, a judge could have mandated that Dufort serve those sentences concurrently.
“Whether Measure 11 is in play or not, serving 30 years by today’s standards is still a pretty significant sentence,” Haroldson said. “A 30-year sentence is what someone would often get for a murder case, or 25 years, which is considered a life sentence.”
In April, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Ramos v. Louisiana that non-unanimous jury votes are unconstitutional. Only Louisiana and Oregon hadn’t outlawed these types of verdicts before 2020. Due to the 10-2 jury verdict in Dufort’s trial, there’s a possibility he could go back to court seeking a new sentence.
Haroldson declined to speculate on whether it would be in Dufort’s best interests to do that.
“The (retroactive) applicability of the Ramos decision on unanimous juries has not been defined yet,” Haroldson added. “I anticipate that it will continue to be the subject of continued litigation.”
His main concern now, Haroldson said, is the community’s trust in their children’s safety.
“The conduct in this case was so depraved,” he said. “It still doesn’t resolve that desire we have to protect vulnerable citizens from predators. That’s the worry when somebody is released after committing this degree of harm.”
That degree of harm, according to Chilcote, is probably much more than anyone can guess. In his experience investigating sex crimes, for every victim that is found, countless more may be out there.
“He should be, in my opinion, in prison the rest of his life, until he dies,” Chilcote said. “He doesn’t deserve any freedom at all. He took quite a bit of freedom away from folks.”
Nia Tariq can be reached at 541-812-6091. Follow her on Twitter @NiaTariq.