Crime and Justice

Bennington man gets 30 years in prison for sexually assaulting children

Peter Drutchal. Photo courtesy of New Hanover County (North Carolina) Sheriff's Office

A Bennington man who ran youth adventure camps in multiple states was sentenced in North Carolina on Wednesday to 30 years in prison for sexual violence against former campers.

He was extradited in 2020 while on probation for similar crimes in Vermont.

Shortly before he was sentenced Wednesday, Peter Drutchal, 68, pleaded guilty to three counts each of attempted statutory sexual offense and indecent liberties with a child, according to North Carolina authorities.

In imposing Drutchal’s 30-year sentence, prosecutors said the judge cited an aggravating factor: He took advantage of a position of trust or confidence to commit the crimes.

Drutchal was accused of sexually assaulting two boys who participated in a youth adventure program he ran in Wilmington, North Carolina, between 1979 and 1983. The boys were between 10 and 14 years old.

An offshoot of the Boy Scouts’ High Adventure program, Drutchal’s program offered outdoor activities such as camping, canoeing and hiking. He was accused of assaulting the boys during trips around the state, the country and Canada, according to a release from North Carolina District Attorney Benjamin David.  

Drutchal, who also went by the name Peter Kennedy, later operated similar camps elsewhere, including in New York and Vermont.

“I always wondered, but I never knew if I was the only one or if there were others,” case complainant John Stawicki, 54, said in court remarks he shared with VTDigger. “But when I talked to and looked at these kids, I just knew in my mind that the same thing was happening to them.”

In Vermont state court in 2002, according to news archives, Drutchal pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting two minors who attended Adventure Quest, an outdoors school he founded in Brownsville. The boys alleged that the assaults happened between 1994 and 2000.

The court sentenced him to 20 to 30 years in prison for two counts of aggravated sexual assault.

Following his criminal conviction, Drutchal was also found guilty at trial in two civil cases brought by former students he had abused, the Valley News reported. It said one victim was awarded $3 million in damages and another victim $5 million.

Drutchal was arrested on the North Carolina charges in November 2020 while he was living in downtown Bennington and was on probation in his sexual assault case.

Stawicki, who came forward to North Carolina police in 2017, has since been reaching out to other people who were abused by Drutchal to offer support. He also said he hopes knowing Drutchal is back in prison would help them heal and move forward.

Stawicki told the court the only time since 1975 that he and fellow complainant Steve Guertin do not have firsthand accounts of abuse perpetrated by Drutchal “are the years in which he was in prison and on parole.”

It was not immediately clear when Drutchal might be eligible for parole. But anticipating that possibility, Stawicki said during Drutchal’s sentencing last week that he is “beyond rehabilitation and remorse and will not stop abusing little boys if ever given the chance.”

“Please do not allow this man that chance by paroling him, regardless of his age or behavior whilst incarcerated,” Stawicki said.

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Tiffany Tan

About Tiffany

Tiffany Tan is VTDigger's Southern Vermont reporter. Before joining VTDigger, she covered cops and courts for the Bennington Banner from 2018 to 2021. Prior to that, Tiffany worked for the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota and spent more than 10 years working for newspapers and television stations in Manila, Singapore and Beijing.

Email: [email protected]

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