The birth mother of Jerry Sandusky's youngest adopted child has come forward saying she believes the former Penn State coach led her son on a path of self-destruction and that she contacted authorities years ago about her son's safety.
Debra Long told ABC News in an exclusive interview that sharing her now 33-year-old son Matt with Sandusky had been a nightmare after the coach became the boy's guardian via foster care in 1995. Long says that she watched as her child became enamored with the local hero and then increasingly frightened by Sandusky's behavior.
"It was Jerry Sandusky, you know? Any 10-year-old kid is going to be impressed by Penn State football," Long said. "And then it was the gifts. You know, money and clothing and whatever … It was as if Jerry owned Matthew."
Sandusky entered the lives of the Longs as a mentor when Matt was 10 years old, via The Second Mile charity for at-risk youth, which the former Penn State defensive coordinator founded. When Matt was placed in juvenile hall after he set fire to a barn in 1995, he soon entered the Sandusky home as a foster child. He was adopted by Sandusky as an adult at age 18.
Matt Sandusky, now 33, is not named as one of the 10 victims in the grand jury presentment outlining the charges against the coach. He insists he was not abused by his foster father.
But Debra Long says that the once-welcome Sandusky soon became a source of fear for her son, as he would take the boy out of school when he was 15 years old, unbeknownst to her.
"My son was afraid of Jerry. If Jerry said don't talk, he didn't talk. I would sit back and watch when Jerry would show up, how excited Matt was," she said. "And then, as time went on, I would watch the same kid hide behind the bedroom door and say, 'Mom, tell him I'm not home.'"
Long believes that exposure to Sandusky was what made her once-quiet son lash out, and eventually fall into the coach's hands.
"It wasn't until Jerry came into the picture that Matt started acting out in school. Matt ended up burning down a barn with another youth, you know -- it wasn't until Jerry came into the picture … that mentor turned him from the quiet, good kid into -- what Jerry could use to take him."
Four months after moving into the Sandusky's home Matt attempted suicide, along with another girl who was staying in the house, according to a report in the Patriot-News. After the suicide attempt, Terry L. Trude, a school-based probation officer, wrote a letter to a local judge asking that Matt's care at the Sandusky home be reviewed.
"The probation department has some serious concerns about the juvenile's safety and his current progress in placement with the Sandusky family," Trude wrote.
The adoption file for Matt Sandusky contains letters from Long to officials and a Centre County judge expressing concern for her son, who she was allowed to visit only one-half day per month while he was in Sandusky's care.
Matt Sandusky – who is one of five boys adopted by Sandusky and his wife -- still supports Jerry after he was arrested on charges of 40 counts of sexual assault with 10 minor boys over 15 years. Matt even brought his children to visit Sandusky after his Nov. 5 arrest.
But the mother of Matt's kids immediately went to court to obtain an order preventing Sandusky from being alone with her children. By court order Sandusky is now not allowed unsupervised contact or overnight visits with his grandchildren.