Editor's note

This article is based on court documents filed in the ongoing suit against The Citadel's President John Rosa, including a deposition of Louis "Skip" ReVille.

Louis "Skip" ReVille's high school classmates muttered insults as he passed them in the hallway. They'd call him a pervert under their breath after rumors spread of an incident at a country club where ReVille worked as a lifeguard.

As the story went, ReVille, then 15, had encouraged a group of four to five 10-year-old boys to play "Truth or Dare," a game in which the children ended up naked.

He didn't tell his classmates at the time, but the story was no idle rumor, according to ReVille. It was the beginning of his attempts to bury his inner demons and mask his fantasies about young boys.

This revelation and other details about his sordid past came to light during a deposition the serial molester gave last month in a case targeting another former employer, The Citadel, where ReVille sexually abused boys while working at the military college's summer camp.

The nearly five-hour deposition took place on April 29 at the Perry Correctional Institute in Pelzer, where ReVille is serving a 50-year prison sentence for his crimes. During the session, ReVille opened up about his upbringing, his patterns of abuse and the motives behind his pedophilia.

Apart from a short, mumbled apology during his sentencing hearing and other snippets of information, this is the first in-depth glimpse into the mind of ReVille, in his own words, that's been made available to the public.

His account sheds light on many unanswered questions about his damaging spree, from how he went about grooming his victims to the practices he used for nearly 10 years to avoid detection. This, experts said, could prove valuable in helping authorities flag and stop other predators before they rack up dozens of victims.

Truth or Dare

ReVille's predilections first surfaced in Birmingham, Ala., where his mother had moved with her new husband after ReVille's parents divorced in California when he was 3 years old.

The move cut him off from his father, a distance that only grew when his dad, a physician, got shipped off to prison for Medicare fraud. He said he had trouble bonding with his stepfather, who he considered aloof, and a stepbrother who pushed him around.

Young Skip became withdrawn, and by the time he reached high school, an anxiety brewed within him.

He searched for a way to gain a sense of control in his life. But this journey soon took him down a destructive path.

After taking a job as a lifeguard at a Birmingham country club, he happened upon a group of boys playing "Truth or Dare" in the pool house after finishing a martial arts class.

As he cleaned the pool deck, ReVille watched as the boys undressed during the game. It excited him, and he soon encouraged the boys to play the game again.

They played two or three more times before one of the boys told his mother, who reported it to the country club. The club called in police to investigate and ReVille was questioned by the Irondale Police Department.

That's when the lies began.

"I told them that this was nothing sexual," he said. "And that it was simply boys being boys."

It's unclear if any formal charges were filed, as juvenile records are sealed. But the country club banned ReVille from the property and he was ordered to attend counseling.

He laid low for a time, he said, but the episode clearly rattled his mother.

"I guess I became even more so withdrawn, and that worried her. She asked me many, many times if I was sexually attracted to the boys, and I denied it," ReVille said. "But she was ... she was concerned and eager to get me the help that I needed. And so I went to the counselor, abided by the rules set forth by the country club, and we managed."

But his urges didn't go away.

When ReVille was 18, his younger brother found pornographic pictures of underage boys ReVille had downloaded on the computer. He pressed ReVille about the photos, but Skip sidestepped his brother's questions.

"I lied to him and said that those pictures were old, and that it was a curiosity but that I was no longer attracted," ReVille said.

ReVille's brother deleted the photos from the computer, but that didn't erase the desires that brought them there.

Time at The Citadel

His hunt for young boys resumed in earnest when he left Alabama to attend college at The Citadel. There, he found an ideal job at the school's summer camp, a program he dubbed "a paradise for pedophiles."

ReVille said he was chosen to serve as a youth counselor even though the college had sent him for psychological testing to determine if he had a personality disorder while he was a cadet, a visit that led to him being prescribed psychiatric medication.

The Citadel's attorney, Dawes Cooke, said ReVille was treated for depression, not a personality disorder.

A staff member at the school's counseling center also learned that he had attended sessions with a psychiatrist at age 15, but the center never followed up to ask why, ReVille said. That allowed his secret about the country club episode to remain intact, he said.

Once he became comfortable at the summer camp, ReVille began inviting young boys into his room to eat pizza, watch porn and masturbate. He estimated that he abused at least a dozen boys during the second session of the 2001 summer camp.

ReVille backed off, however, when Marine Capt. Michael Arpaio, a Citadel graduate, was caught sexually abusing boys at the camp that same summer. The school put stricter rules in place after the Arpaio episode to prevent staff from being alone with campers, a move that ReVille assumed would shut off his avenues of abuse.

But in no time, ReVille said, those policies went by the wayside.

"There was, I guess, a heightened awareness on the part of all the counselors with regards to the rules, but that soon wore off," ReVille said. "After about four or five days, that wore off."

ReVille said he soon saw campers going back into counselors' rooms and closing the doors - a practice strictly barred under the rules. Though he had been abiding by those rules to avoid detection, he quickly returned to his old ways, he said.

"After I saw that everything was going back to the laxity - the laxity that this was before, then I started - I resumed my selecting and grooming the campers," he said.

ReVille said he abused seven campers about 14 separate times that year.

The full extent of his misbehavior wasn't revealed until ReVille was arrested in 2011 by Mount Pleasant police after complaints surfaced of him molesting boys in that town. A year later, he pleaded guilty to molesting 23 boys in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties - about half the victims he claims to have abused. He won't be eligible for parole until 2053.

The lawsuits

Looking back, for ReVille, the abuse was all about control, triggered by anger or disappointment in himself.

"I used abuse in that negative cycle to gain control over that anxiety," he said. "Whereas a normal person would self-soothe and learn to calm themselves down, I resorted to manipulation and control, and that took the form of sexual abuse."

The anger was usually triggered by feelings of disrespect in professional situations, he said.

ReVille strategically placed himself in environments in which he could abuse children. He became a teacher, a coach, a tutor, a church volunteer. At one point, he even became a foster parent.

"One, I saw the need, and second, it gave me an opportunity to abuse - further abuse children," ReVille said.

His actions have caused havoc and recriminations at nearly every place he stopped along his journey of exploitation.

The Citadel, for example, faced seven lawsuits filed against the school or its officials in connection with ReVille's abuse at the summer camp.

The deposition testimony ReVille gave last month stems from an ongoing suit against Citadel President John Rosa in which ReVille's victims claim the school should have done more to stop ReVille from continuing to prey on young boys.

School officials insist they never intentionally kept any information about ReVille concealed. The school, however, has admitted it could have handled the situation better.

In 2007, a former camper reported to school leaders that ReVille had watched porn and masturbated with him five years earlier at the summer camp. The incident was never reported to police and its details were quietly shelved after an in-house investigation.

When asked by one of the victim's attorneys during the deposition how many young men would have been spared abuse at his hands had The Citadel contacted law enforcement in 2007, ReVille replied, "close to 30."

Mullins McLeod, a lawyer representing four ReVille victims, said through his deposition, ReVille confirmed what they suspected: that the school ignored evidence of early warning signs that could have stopped ReVille.

"It is intellectually dishonest for them to tell the taxpayers that ReVille pulled the wool over their eyes when in fact they caught him red-handed as far back as 2001," McLeod said.

Dawes Cooke, the attorney representing The Citadel, said things that appear clear in hindsight were not at the time.

"Everybody who I have met who ever encountered Skip ReVille wishes they had dug deeper or asked more questions or been more suspicious," Cooke said. "That includes everyone he worked with, the parents of kids he dealt with and just about everybody."

Trial dates for both the federal and state suits are scheduled for this summer.

Learning from the past

Cooke said he thinks ReVille is willing to be truthful about a lot of things. But Cooke also believes ReVille tries to say what he thinks people want to hear.

Experts in child sex abuse, however, said the insight from ReVille's interview could be valuable in flagging future predators.

"I think every case provides opportunity to learn," Darkness to Light's CEO and president, Jolie Logan, said.

Following the Penn State controversy, Darkness to Light studied the independent review surrounding the child abuse committed by Jerry Sandusky, looking for ways to prevent future crimes. "I would love to see the Skip ReVille stuff for the same reason," she said.

Though painful to his victims and the community, ReVille's case has also brought needed attention to the issue of child sex abuse, said Don Elsey, the director of clinical services for the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center, said.

"It's hard to think about this stuff," he said. "But we need to continue to educate the community about what to look for."

Elsey encourages parents to take these types of events as opportunities to speak to their children about the dangers of sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, agencies like the Dee Norton center continue their efforts to treat those who have been victims of molesters like ReVille.

"A lot of people think 'if my children were abused, they're damaged for life,'" Elsey said. "That is not true."

Peace in prison

ReVille apologized during the deposition, and when asked what he would tell his victims, he said he hoped they seek treatment. "And I would encourage them to trust - learn to trust adults in their future," he said.

It's a trust he took advantage of and stole from the more than 40 children he's admitted to abusing.

ReVille said he doesn't know if they would ever forgive him. To date, he hasn't asked.

But ReVille said he's sought forgiveness from God and he believes that it has been granted.

"By His grace, (I) found it," he said. "I'm at peace."

Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.