Men Reveal Secrets of Sexual Abuse in Solidarity with Accused Killer

Families reveal secrets of sexual abuse in solidarity with accused killer.

May 19, 2010— -- It was the kind of headline that rocks a city no matter how big or small -- a young man shoots his former neighbor in his home and claims he had been sexually abused him for years. The small California coastal town of Fort Bragg was left wondering exactly who was the real Darrell McNeill and whether a monster had lived next door as Aaron Vargas had alleged.

Paul Clark, who runs the local Century 21 agency where McNeill worked part-time, described him as hardworking and always willing to help out.

"Neighbors asked, 'Well, you knew, didn't you?,'" Clark told "20/20," "'Know what?' No. I had moved here since in 1976, and been around, and until the day after [the shooting], never a word."

But that was about to end. Within days of Aaron Vargas' arrest, the phone at the Vargas family home started ringing. The stories on the other end of the line, the family says, were chilling -- men in their thirties and forties, who said they too had been abused by Darrell McNeill and had kept the secret buried for decades.

One of those calls came from Todd Rowan, 45, who was part of a Boy Scout troop led by McNeill. The abuse, Rowan claims, started at age fifteen and continued for six years.

"[McNeill took] my whole life," Rowan told 20/20, "I didn't develop normally because I got preyed upon. And I carried it for a long, long time."

Mindy Galliani, Aaron Vargas' sister, said twelve stories like Rowan's trickled back to her family.

"It was hard to believe," she said, "Just when we thought things couldn't get any worse, we would find something else out."

And the family says things did get worse. They also heard from members of Darrell McNeill's own family, who said they had not only been abused, but had gone to warn the Fort Bragg Police Department.

"I hated him," John Clemons, McNeill's stepson told "20/20," "I never forgot about what he was doing to me."

Clemons, 46, said the abuse started when he was ten and continued until he was fourteen, when he finally decided to stand up to his stepfather. McNeill never touched him again and Clemons kept it secret for years. Finally, when he was in his thirties, he told his mother, Virginia Kotila, who by then was divorced from McNeill.

Kotilla says she went to the Fort Bragg police and was told the statute of limitations of seven years to report sexual abuse was up and that she would have to find a younger victim in order to move the case forward.

McNeill's Stepson and 'Big Brother' Mentee Say They Fell Victim to Abuse

She says she approached Irene Durigan, whose younger brother, Jamie, had been taken under Darrell's wing as part of the local Big Brothers program. The Big Brothers Big Sisters of America organization said they have no record of Darrell McNeill serving as a mentor.

"At first I thought maybe she was a vindictive ex-wife," said Durigan, "It wasn't until Jamie came to my house and I asked him point-blank. And, he broke down and told me what had happened to him."

From age nine until 17, Irene says, her brother was also molested by McNeill. But even at age 23, she says, he refused to go to the police.

"Jamie said, 'No, I can't,'" Durigan said. "He said, 'Because I don't wanna be labeled.'"

The Fort Bragg Police Department does not have any record of Virginia Kotila reporting the abuse as she claims she did. But they do acknowledge one report made in 2001 by Todd Rowan.

He says the police asked him to participate in the investigation and confront McNeill. When he refused, he says they dropped the case. In their report, the police write that they attempted to contact him again, but never heard back.

Rowan believes that nothing was done due to McNeill's status in the community.

"He owned his own business. He was involved with the scouting. He was involved with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization," said Rowan, "He played the game, and he made himself out to look like this grandiose, generous, caring person."

Irene Durigan says that if the police had done more, she believes Aaron Vargas might never have shot McNeill on that fateful night, and that her brother, Jamie, would never have reached his own breaking point.

In 2006, when Jamie was 37, Irene says McNeill tried to get back in touch with him. Four days later, Jamie shot himself in the head.

Irene admits she has conflicting feelings about what Vargas did, but she hopes he'll get the help he needs.

"I don't want to praise Aaron for what he did, but Aaron did what he felt was right to save himself. He's still alive. He can go through therapy. He can get the help he needs," she said. "My brother's not alive. All I have is memories of Jamie."