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Fallout Continues In Vargas Case

Is it “consensual” when an adult male engages in sex with an older man who began molesting him as a boy? That explosive question is ricocheting around the country in the wake of statements by a Mendocino County law enforcement investigator during a nationally televised broadcast last Friday about Fort Bragg’s Aaron Vargas case.

Sheriff Sgt. Glen Van Patten’s on-air suggestions that the 2009 shooting death of businessman Darrell McNeill at the hands of Vargas may have been the result of a “lover’s quarrel” has enraged Vargas’ supporters just two weeks before his sentencing.

Van Patten said investigators believe Vargas and McNeill had engaged in sex for at least “two to four years” before the killing.

Van Patten’s notion that a child sexual abuse victim could voluntarily become his molester’s lover when he grew up sickened some viewers, and nationally known abuse experts.

“In my opinion Van Patten needs to be fired,” declared the wife of a Dallas, Texas police officer.
Another angry viewer in Seattle wrote, “Sgt. Van Patten is treating this as a sexcapades with Vargas and McNeill.”

Iowa resident Susan Huseman wrote, “To have a law enforcement officer say on national television that a victim of child-sexual abuse was consensually involved with his abuser is an outrage.”

Yet even Aaron Vargas during his exclusive interview with ABC’s 20/20 acknowledged he knows some people think he’s a “fag” for engaging in extended sexual relations with a friendly neighbor who began abusing him when he was 11-years-old.

Vargas told viewers that no matter how hard he tried to keep his distance from McNeill, the cycle of abuse would begin again and he would somehow be lured back.

Vargas said sometimes the sex happened only a couple of times a year, usually on fishing trips with McNeill. There was always a lot of drinking involved.

Other times, including in the weeks leading up to the shocking killing, Vargas said, “He’d call almost daily.”

Vargas said the fear that McNeill might actually molest his infant daughter finally drove him to a drunken confrontation, and the fatal shooting.

Sex abuse cases stagger communities, and raise troubling questions about how we view victims and perpetrators.

Experts say typically a lot of sexual abuse cases taper off within 3-4 years, largely because the perpetrator loses interest or the victim finally figures out how to stand up to the aggressor.

But that’s not always the case, according to Dr. Richard Gartner. Gartner is a widely known Manhattan expert in sexual abuse, and a former 20-year director of the clinical psychology program at Columbia University.

Gartner in a telephone interview said he’s become aware of the national notoriety surrounding the Vargas case, but he said his knowledge of the case was too general for him to discuss any specifics.

However, Gartner said what Vargas says happened between he and McNeill over the past 20 years is “not that unusual.”

“Young victims are groomed in these issues by people who they see as mentors,” said Gartner.

Gartner said as victims become more isolated because of their shame and a growing fear of discovery, “they feel branded.”

“In their tormented state, sometimes sex is a small price to pay,” said Gartner.

Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist, told 20/20 that McNeill’s tight hold on Vargas could have easily continued into his adult years.

“You take someone who is vulnerable, and you get them formative, and you attach to them all through their development, and you get in their DNA,” said Welner.

Welner said, “And that’s how you have people, who even in adulthood are doing things totally unacceptable to them. And yet at the same time they’re powerless to break away from it.”

McNeill’s secret life involving a dozen or more young Fort Bragg men including his own step-son only came to light after Vargas killed him.

Vargas told the nation that he regrets killing McNeill. “It’s not up to me to decide someone’s fate.”

He said he still struggles with the reasons why.

“Sometimes, I guess people can take control over you in ways that you would never imagine,” Vargas told television viewers.

Vargas killed a man, intentionally or not. He must pay the price for that action no matter how much sympathy his case stirs.

Yet somehow I can’t escape the conclusion that thanks to a cold, calculating perpetrator, Aaron Vargas will always be a victim. That in the end Aaron Vargas’ punishment may be far greater than his sins no matter what the outcome is in the courtroom next month.


  1. Jay May 27, 2010

    Clearly, Van Patten is deflecting responsibility – creating a story that better serves the police’s interest and adequately takes the focus off of their failure to identify and stop this pedophile. As for the concept of vigilante justice, this seems more like self-defense and evokes elements of battered women’s syndrome. Dr. Welner hit the nail on the head when he noted that Vargas was targeted because of his vulnerability and groomed over the year. Somewhere, learned helplessness seeped in and Vargas did the only thing he thought he could to break free and protect his daughter. Very sad indeed! I would love to hear more of what Dr. Welner has to say about this as the trial progresses.

    • Charles U. Farley May 28, 2010

      Clearly you are an idiot. Van Patten is an officer of the law, who responded to a murder. It is not up to him to decide wether the murder was justified, that is for the courts. He was not responding to a molestation accusation either, he was commenting on the murder that he responded to. It’s not up to him to delve into the mindset of the murderer, that is for lawyers. If law enforcement had knowledge of a sexual relationship between two adults, then this was charged correctly. Don’t get your panties in a wad regarding the comments of an officer who is protecting his community and serving others. The mental state of the murderer can be hashed out by lawyers and experts, however, the cops show up to a crime scene, see a dead guy, arrest the guy who killed the dead guy and go on the next day to protect your asses as well as they can. Nobody is spinning anything in this case to server any interests. Facts are facts. One guy dead, one guy killed him. Murder. Justified, perhaps. Legal, no. Quit being such a bleeder, you damn skirt.

      • Shari May 28, 2010

        Have you not been listening and watching? The Fort Bragg Police Dept. has not been out protecting there community and serving, if they had been no one else would have been molested when the first report was filed many years ago. Because Darrell was a well known business owner in Fort Bragg everything was swept under the carpet and left. Which in fact is why there is so very many young men coming forward now telling of the abuse that was caused by Darrell McNeil. Darrell ruined many families and lives, some in fact are no longer here they could not take the thought any longer and ended there lives. After following the entire story of Aaron Vargas and attending the hearings it was very clear to me that Van Patten was covering his ass. I do recall during one of the hearings when he was on the witness stand and was being questioned. Hum. he couldn’t recall, I don’t recall, I am not sure, however when he is questioned from 20/20 he didn’t seem to have any problems with coming up with answers and was able to recall everything. As a lifelong member of the community in Mendocino County I believe it is time for Van Patten to step down. With little memory he serves no purpose to the Police Dept, or does he?? Fort Braggers need to band together until Van Patten is removed from his duties. Dear Mr. Charles Farley I do believe it is time for you to pull your panties out of your ass. Get the facts before posting.

        • Charles U. Farley June 3, 2010

          Van Patten has never worked for any Police Department. Maybe that’s a fact that should be addressed. You also haven’t addressed the fact that Vargas murdered a man, regardless of whether you believe it was justified, he murdered him. Van Patten and law enforcement arrested him as they are charged to do. You are trying to make a scapegoat out of a man that arrived to the scene of a crime and did his job. To my knowledge, Van Patten has yet to murder anyone and is a fine detective, can’t see how objectively doing ones job is grounds for termination.

      • Liza B May 29, 2010

        THAN MAYBE Officer Van Patten should keep his opinion to himself.
        Cops are always twisting things up so they can be right… cops are ALWAYS right/. dont you know they truly believe that?
        thats why you should NEVER EVER talk to the police. they are damaging at best… never helpful, and dont uphold any laws. Lying is pokay for htem, but selfincriminating for the civilian. I have had been vicitmized (robbery, vandalism) several times in the Fort Bragg area and the police ALWAYS say the same thing .. .”..nothing WE can do…”
        Now that i moved away to the big city of Seattle… I watch cops just walk on past people smoking and selling crack on the street .. and thats just one f many many issues….

    • Kelli May 28, 2010

      This case has moved into the sentencing phase which will take place on June 14.

    • Lisa May 28, 2010

      Not that it is acceptable to go out and take someone’s life … but… the authorities did nothing. The children needed protection and received none. Also, the head detective proved a point by eluding to the idea of it being a “love affair gone bad”… most likely one of the reason’s people who are molested don’t come forward about it in the first place… because that was NOT the case in Aaron’s ordeal. The detective is in denial and should speak to people who have been molested and find out the mental control they gave up to their abuser.

      • Liza B May 29, 2010

        cops covering on another’s asses at best…. …. too bad we cant arrest police for being useless.

      • Charles U. Farley June 3, 2010

        That’s not their job, that’s for a shrink. Two adults who on occasion have sex sounds like an affair gone bad. The sad circumstances that led these adults to a continued relationship are horrible, however, they are not for Van Patten to opine about, as he is not a psychiatrist, he is merely an officer investigating a murder. Molestation is devestating and destroys lives, however, from a legal POV, it does not give you the right to murder, nor does it make law enforcement the bad guys.

  2. Woof May 27, 2010

    Alcohol is often used. Tell you kids that to avoid molestation, don’t drink what they give you. Oldest trick in the book.

  3. Jennifer May 29, 2010

    Great Article. Woof, I’m sure some use alcohol but that is not always the case I was the victim of several offenders and alcohol was never offered to me. Just don’t want people to be confused. Offenders will offend whether complied with or not anyway.

  4. Al Neuman May 29, 2010

    This ain’t the first time Van Patten’s been involved in something sleazy. He was the guy who assisted the DEA on a raid at the wrong house several years ago. A model police officer. Think he’s got something going with C.U. Farley? All this stuff about “panties” sounds a little limp-wristed.

    • Charles U. Farley June 3, 2010

      There are no wrong houses to raid in Mendocino County…..everyone but me is a dirt bag like you….raid them all…..just knock on my door and come on in, look around, nothing to hide…..different topic though….law enforcement makes mistakes occassionally….don’t you wish you only made them occassionally? I know who you are Neuman….your life is one big mistake after another… suck at life…please don’t chime in.

  5. Lee Como June 27, 2010

    Van Patten missed his calling. He is clueless about real events but he does have a remarkable albeit twisted imagination. He should be writing faerie tales
    for the kiddies. His interview on national television could be the subject of his first book, “Big Mac”.

  6. James Dawson November 18, 2015

    Charles Farley, you are an ignorant, self-righteous idiot with no knowledge of abuse and the effects it has on victims.

  7. Deborah Sherman November 10, 2017

    I live in Mendocino county. My son was a victim at age 5. Shame on you, Charles Farley. My son is 26 now. It doesn’t go away. You put down a dog that attacks a child & the same goes for child predators. Why the lack of empathy? ? What if it had been your child? ? My God, how low can you go. Good riddance the predator can no longer prey on another human being.

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