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Parties settle sex abuse case

Posted: Friday, February 20, 2004

A confidential, out-of-court settlement was reached late Tuesday evening in the Kenai Superior Court case involving The Salvation Army, former Kenai minister Troy Trickel and his wife, Debbie, and four girls who claimed the minister abused them sexually.

Attorneys from both sides of the civil suit said Wednesday they were pleased with the settlement which takes the place of a jury verdict reached Monday.

"We're very pleased with how things came out. (The jury) did a good job," said Tom Owens, who represented the plaintiffs along with fellow Burr, Pease and Kurtz attorney Nelson Page.

Although Owens said he was not allowed to disclose the terms of the settlement, he said it "would supplant any jury verdict."

After deliberating for five days, a jury of eight women and four men specified compensatory damages totaling $427,000 for the victims and was to start deliberations on punitive damages Wednesday.

During the 53-day trial that began the week before Thanksgiv-ing Day, Kenai attorney Chuck Robinson, who represented the Trickels, said the plaintiffs' claims for emotional damages exceeded $4 million.

"I think all the parties are pleased with the settlement," Robinson said Wednesday.

"I think we managed to keep the damages reasonable. We feel the jury agreed with us on the damages issue," he said.

Troy Trickel was sentenced in 2001 to 3 1/2 years in prison after being convicted on one consolidated count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. He was released from prison in September after serving 28 months.

Three sisters and another girl, ages 7, 8, 10 or 11 and 13 at the time of the abuse, said they were fondled by Trickel at the Kenai Salvation Army Church on separate occasions in 1999.

The girls and one of the mothers filed the civil suit against Trickel and also against his wife and The Salvation Army, saying they were negligent in not responding to reports of the abuse.

The commander of the Alaska Division of The Salvation Army in Anchorage on Wednesday said the church is pleased that the settlement has been reached.

"We are especially pleased for the innocent victims of this case that the trial is concluded and the healing can begin," said Major Bob Rudd.

When asked if The Salvation Army has made any policy or procedure changes as a result of the Trickel incident, Rudd said the church has been involved in helping frail and vulnerable people for over 100 years.

"We're not changing. We're continuing to do everything we possibly can do background checks, training, putting windows in doors," Rudd said.

"I wish I could say we would never have an incident of child abuse. The Salvation Army is doing everything we can," he said.

In a statement released Wednes-day, the Alaska Divisional Head-quarters office said, "During the course of this whole process which dates back to 2001 The Salvation Army has sought the best possible outcome for everyone involved, but especially the girls."

The statement said every employee, officer and volunteer submits to a stringent screening process and each receives training on how to identify risk factors that lead to accident or injury, how to respond and how to report incidents.

Robinson said Troy Trickel was suspended from his duties with the church when he was arrested and was terminated from his employment upon entering his guilty plea to the criminal charge.

"Now he's trying to reintegrate into the Kenai community," Robinson said.

"He is no longer connected with the church in an official capacity," he said.



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