St. Paul perv janitor Walter Happel allegedly got away with sexually abusing kids for 30 years
Happel's most recent mugshot
In March, Walter Happel, a 62-year-old Newport resident and longtime janitor who most recently worked at the Linwood Monroe Arts Plus School in St. Paul, was charged with felony interference with privacy for allegedly sticking his perverted head under a bathroom stall while a 12-year-old student was in there on February 19. (Read the full backstory here.)
After that news broke, a number of students came forward to report similar incidents. Not only that, but Happel's son corroborated a report St. Paul police received back in 1991 about Happel forcing him and his female cousin to have sex with each other when they were children.
Victor Barnard sex cult charges: Most bizarre allegations
Yesterday, Ramsey County officials announced they've hit Happel with a smorgasboard of new charges, including first-degree criminal sexual conduct, three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, and five counts of surreptitious invasion of privacy.
The new charging documents don't exactly bathe the St. Paul police or Linwood Monroe in glory, as both allegedly ignored credible warnings Happel was a pedophile.
The allegations now facing Happel are Sandusky-esque -- there are too many alleged victims to share each and every one of their stories in one report. But with regard to the 1991 case, after news of the initial charge against Happel broke a couple months ago, Happel's son, identified as "AH" in charging documents, came forward to tell police his father sexually abused him from the time he was four until he was 14 or 15. He corroborated a report about his father that his cousin, identified as "SH," brought to police 23 years ago.
Here's what the charges have to say about that incident:
SH reported that when she was six, Happel fondled her vagina and breasts at her home. When SH was 8 or 9, Happel put Vaseline on his son AH's penis and on SH's vagina and made them have sex. Happel attempted to have sex with SH but couldn't get his penis in so he instead inserted his fingers into her vagina.
SH told police Happel showed her nude photos he'd taken of another of AH's cousins, EW. She also said Happel "disrobed her and videotaped her after he showed her several photos of naked teenage boys," the charges say.
But SH's parents were uncooperative with police, and though officers executed a search warrant at Happel's residence, no charges were ever filed. At the time, EW was interviewed by investigators. Asked why his answers seemed hesitant, he replied, "[Happel] is blood. You know what I have to say."
A separate charging document alleges Happel sexually abused a 9- or 10-year-old neighbor of his during the mid-1980s.
From the document:
BJS stayed over at Happel's house located at 259 Sherburne Avenue, Saint Paul, Ramsey County because his parents were out of town. BJS slept in AH's room but AH wasn't in there with him. Happel came in, woke BJS up, and told him that he knew what AH had done to him [AH allegedly performed non-consensual sex acts on BJS at an earlier date]. Walter began fondling BJS's penis and he asked BJS to pose for some pictures. BJS was afraid and didn't know any better so he did. Happel told BJS that since his underwear was white the pictures wouldn't turn out. Happel had BJS take off his underwear. BJS posed for naked photos holding the gun from the Nintendo game Duck Hunt. BJS posed like he was shooting something. When asked how many photos Happel took of him, BJS responded, "A lot."
Happel then sat down next to BJS, touched his leg, and fondled BJS's penis. Happel then performed oral sex on BJS as the boy lay on his back. Happel put Vaseline on BJS' penis, got on top of the boy, and made BJS put his penis in Happel's butt. Happel had BJS touch his own penis at the same time. BJS said it seemed to go on for an eternity, and when it was over, Happel told BJS not to tell anyone that it was just their little secret.
The charging documents allege Happel gave some of his preteen victims cigarettes and beer.
As far as the Linwood Monroe allegations are concerned, yet another charging document says that when a parent ("AB") talked to a school social worker this past winter to share concerns about Happel brandishing his penis in a school bathroom to their child, the social worker said Happel "had been there forever and wouldn't hurt anyone."
(For more, click to page two.)
"AB later called the school and spoke with a woman about the incident, but she never got a return call from anyone with the school," the charging document continues. "AB finally reported the incident to the police."
Yet another charging document says school officials didn't tell police about a January 17, 2014 incident where Happel allegedly "lightly slapped a student's behind" and said, "I told you I was going to do that if you sagged your pants," even though just a week earlier, the school principal received an email from a parent who was concerned about Happel giving candy to two students who didn't have father figures in their lives.
Notes in Happel's school file indicate administrators were aware of another incident in January 2012 where Happel allegedly touched a student's butt. Nonetheless, Happel continued working at Lincoln Monroe until February of this year.
During an April 2014 interview, the boy involved in the 2012 incident gave investigators this account of Happel's behavior during the 2011-12 school year:
EM said Happel always stared at kids in the restroom so EM began urinating in the stalls instead of urinals. Happel showed EM the boiler room and his "secret room." The secret room had both a desktop and laptop computer in the room. EM said Happel discussed sex with him and made it seem like it was normal and natural. EM denied anything physical happened between him and Happel inside the secret room, but when discussing the matter EM became soft spoken, hunched over looking at the floor, and refused to make eye contact with Sergeant Larson.
According to the most recent jail records, Happel was being held at Ramsey County Jail today on $100,000 bail, pending a court hearing scheduled for today. Though police never found the stash of child pornography some of his alleged victims claim he had, one charging document suggests Happel might have had it destroyed from jail:
Subsequent search warrants of Happel's current residence failed to recover his stash of child pornography. In jail phone calls, Happel spoke to his wife and another person about "taking care of that other thing" for him. Happel's wife replied, "Yes, he throw it away already." Happel then said, "So he cleaned it all out for me?" His wife assured him that he should not worry and said, "He checked everything and cleaned everything out."
In the wake of the latest batch of charges being announced, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi released this statement:
On behalf of our community, I want to thank all of the victims for courageously coming forward to police about the defendant's sexual abuse. This is not an easy thing to do and we want them to know we stand by them. The Defendant, Walter Happel, now stands accused of 8 separate cases of serious felony sexual conduct. He has preyed on the innocence of children for over 30 years, and I am relieved that we can seek to hold him accountable for these crimes and get him away from our children. We will pursue justice for the victims, their families and our community.
-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.