Subject of USA TODAY investigation into child sexual abuse accused of sexual battery

·8 min read

The subject of a USA TODAY investigation into child sexual abuse allegations was arrested last week outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Bixby Police Chief Todd Blish confirmed at a news conference Friday.

David Menna was booked at Tulsa County Jail on suspicion of sexual battery, then released on $2,000 bail, according to an arrest report reviewed by USA TODAY. The heavily redacted report suggests the victim is an adult who suffers from Parkinson's disease, and for whom Menna was providing care. Blish declined questions about details of the alleged abuse, saying the investigation is ongoing.

USA TODAY's investigation focused on children and found allegations of child sexual abuse against Menna dating back to 1992, many involving camping trips and wilderness excursions with the Boy Scouts of America. He was arrested in Oklahoma while leading one such trip in 2007 on two counts of lewd molestation.

The allegations emerged as Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy protection in 2020, prompting tens of thousands of abuse survivors to come forward to file claims in the case, many telling their stories for the first time.

Read the full investigation: He posed as a doctor and a wilderness expert. Behind the facade was an accused child molester.

What’s the backstory?

In December 2018, reports that the Boy Scouts was preparing to file for bankruptcy spurred a group of attorneys to recruit clients who say they were abused as Scouts. The group, Abused in Scouting, ran TV ads encouraging survivors to come forward, noting lawsuits against Scouts would be halted in bankruptcy proceedings, and a deadline for claims to be filed in bankruptcy court would further restrict future legal action against the youth organization.

Within months, the group had signed hundreds of clients with accounts of sexual abuse, allegations from across eight decades that reach nearly every state.

Allegations emerge: Nearly 800 accuse Boy Scouts of failing to protect them from sex abuse

Unidentified child abusers? Hundreds of former Boy Scouts reveal new sexual abuse claims

The law firm's client list, obtained by USA TODAY, alleges molestation ranging from fondling to sodomy. Some of the men accused by former Scouts ended up in court or were punished administratively for similar crimes, sometimes many years after their alleged assaults. About two dozen of those accused had been kicked out of Scouting for abuse.

The majority of the accused, however, had no criminal record and were not mentioned in the Scouts’ internal files that tracked such allegations.

One of those was David Menna.

What were the allegations against Menna?

David Menna held himself out to be a doctor, military man and wilderness expert, according to interviews with dozens of people who knew him. He led camping and repelling trips with various Scout troops and reportedly ran his own outfitting company.

David Menna had a dental degree but called himself "doctor."
David Menna had a dental degree but called himself "doctor."

Jacob, a client of Abused in Scouting, who as a survivor of child sexual abuse asked not to be identified by his full name, said Menna molested him in 1992 in Georgia.

Jacob said the abuse occurred on a camping trip, telling USA TODAY that Menna said he needed to apply baby powder on Jacob to prevent chafing. Jacob didn’t tell anyone until he saw the TV ads from Abused in Scouting.

Grant Lackey met Menna through church in the suburbs of Atlanta about a year later. Menna was helping out with the Scout troop affiliated with the church, leading rappelling exercises and wildlife expeditions. Lackey participated in many trips over several years.

In 1995, Grant Lackey spoke up for the first time, accusing David Menna of abusing him. He would later tell authorities the abuse happened at least twice but today he recalls more than a dozen instances.
In 1995, Grant Lackey spoke up for the first time, accusing David Menna of abusing him. He would later tell authorities the abuse happened at least twice but today he recalls more than a dozen instances.

Lackey told USA TODAY that Menna used baby powder on him, too. And the abuse progressed to masturbation and lasted for years. In May 1995, Lackey’s dad filed a report with police and the state’s Division of Family and Child Services.

USA TODAY found three other agencies in Georgia also recorded reports of child molestation against Menna in the 1990s: a second police department, a sheriff’s office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. The agencies largely denied requests to review the reports citing victim’s privacy laws, making it impossible to determine whether all of the allegations were related to Lackey or if they included other potential victims.

The lack of public access to those reports has helped shield Menna’s history not only from the media, but from parents and youth organizations.

Grant Lackey, left, started out as a Cub Scout, then later men David Menna through a church-affiliated Boy Scout troop.
Grant Lackey, left, started out as a Cub Scout, then later men David Menna through a church-affiliated Boy Scout troop.

USA TODAY uncovered pieces of the reports, including limited records from a Georgia Bureau of Investigations file. The bureau’s file shows that Lackey’s case ultimately was referred to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. As of late June 1995, according to the file, Menna was not licensed to practice medicine in the state of Georgia. His business, Wilderness Adventures, was not registered with the secretary of state’s office.

In January 1997, investigators attempted to interview Menna. Through his attorney, he declined to answer questions without a warrant. Six months later, the case was closed, with no charges filed against him. Both the bureau and Hall County Sheriff’s Department declined USA TODAY’s request to explain why.

Prior arrest in Oklahoma

Noah Cleveland was a new member of the Young Marines in Tulsa in 2007 when he attended his first camping trip. Menna led the outing to Osage Hills State Park, and  invited members from a local Boy Scout troop.

Cleveland told USA TODAY that a little before midnight on the first night, Menna woke him up, saying he needed to inspect Cleveland for ticks.

Cleveland later recounted the event to a forensic interviewer, saying Menna felt his genitals and put bug repellent on his penis, testicles and buttocks. In her expert opinion, she testified in court, Cleveland’s experience was consistent with child abuse.

Noah Cleveland returned to Osage Hills State Park with USA TODAY. “The way he went about it wasn’t designed to make me uncomfortable,” he said. “It was designed to do exactly the opposite: To build a relationship and make me believe he is someone I can trust.”
Noah Cleveland returned to Osage Hills State Park with USA TODAY. “The way he went about it wasn’t designed to make me uncomfortable,” he said. “It was designed to do exactly the opposite: To build a relationship and make me believe he is someone I can trust.”

Another Young Marine who attended the camping trip, Sam McCormick, told USA TODAY that he woke up one night with a stomachache. Menna was the person to ask for medical help, as he purported to be a doctor.

McCormick said he was looking for ibuprofen, but Menna clipped his fingernails and toenails, then stripped him down for a tick check.

The Clevelands filed a report with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, which has jurisdiction over the park.

Weeks later, Menna was set to lead another camping trip with Scouts. Osage County Sheriff’s Officers arrested him on the first night of that trip on two counts of lewd molestation. He was held in jail for two days before posting $50,000 bail.

He was charged with two counts of lewd molestation and two counts of practicing medicine without a license. But as it did in Georgia, the case against him crumbled.

Menna was allowed to plead no contest to one count of practicing medicine without a license; the other charges were dismissed. Instead of serving up to 40 years, he received a two-year deferred sentence.

Through his attorney, Menna was also able to get much of the case sealed or expunged. Menna maintained throughout the case that he was not guilty of molestation.

USA TODAY requested hearing transcripts, only to be told a month later that a judge had ordered them sealed during a hearing with Menna's attorney following that request. USA TODAY was never notified of the hearing.

USA TODAY later went to court and was granted access before the last of the records were set to be expunged.

What's happening now?

At a press conference Friday, Bixby Police Chief Todd Blish said the department had received a report of sexual assault on Sept. 14.

"During that investigation, it was determined there was probable cause to arrest David Menna for sexual battery," Blish said.

Blish said the alleged crime occurred in a home in Bixby, where Menna was providing care for the victim, but declined to provide details.

According to an arrest and booking report reviewed by USA TODAY, an individual in the home has severe Parkinson's disease. The report says Menna repeatedly asked to shave the victim's genital area, saying it would make the area easier to clean. He was told "no."

The individual who filed the report said she went out of town on Sept. 9 to visit family. During that time, Menna was with the victim and moved a camera that the reporting individual used to view and check in on the victim remotely. When she returned, she told police that Menna admitted shaving the victim's genitals.

A hospice nurse aide told police that when he arrived at the home on Sept. 12, he found the victim in his chair dressed only in pull-up briefs and no pants.

Blish said the investigation is ongoing. He urged anyone with information to call 918-366-8294.

What's at stake?

It's well-documented that sexual offenses are among the most underreported crimes, and, at the same time, sex offenders can have high rates of recidivism, or repeated offenses.

According to a 2017 report from the Department of Justice's Sex Offender Management Assessment and Planning Initiative, research examining recidivism for sex offenders shows the highest rates are among child molesters who offend against boys.

The report goes on to review additional research that finds they may also reoffend with victims of various ages, including adults, adolescents and children.

However, specialized supervision, along with assessment and treatment, can be effective in reducing additional offenses, according to the report.

Cara Kelly is a reporter on the USA TODAY investigations team, focusing primarily on pop culture, consumer news and sexual violence. Contact her at carakelly@usatoday.com, @carareports or CaraKelly on WhatsApp.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Subject of USA TODAY investigation arrested for sexual battery