SWOYERSVILLE – A Lancaster area man banned from the Boy Scouts of America based on allegations he molested three boys committed suicide last week – one day after his hometown newspaper reported allegations he had sexually assaulted a Wilkes-Barre boy in the mid 1980s.
Kenneth L. Eshleman, 63, of Lititz, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on Dec. 31, Lancaster County Coroner Stephen Diamantoni confirmed Monday.
Eshleman had been the subject of a Dec. 30 article published in the Lancaster New Era and the Intelligencer Journal newspapers that detailed allegations made by Karen Martin of Swoyersville.
Diamantoni said Eshleman left a suicide note. He declined to discuss its contents out of respect for the privacy of Eshleman's family.
The Lancaster articles followed a Dec. 9 article that appeared in The Times Leader in which Martin spoke about lingering anguish she felt over the 1991 suicide of her 19-year-old son, Joshua Smith.
Martin, 59, claims Eshleman molested Joshua starting when he was around age 9. She blamed Eshleman for contributing to mental-health problems that led Joshua to kill himself on Feb. 21, 1991.
Eshleman was never charged with any crime in connection with the alleged assaults on Joshua Smith. A criminal investigation had been started, but it was dropped after Joshua died, Martin said.
Martin said she had mixed emotions when she learned of Eshleman's death.
His death, she said, brings a sense of closure for her, but also disappointment in knowing he escaped justice in that he was never charged in connection with her son's case.
Justice would have been him doing time for what he did to my son, Martin said. I would have liked to have looked him in the eye, knowing what he did to my son.
Eshleman was banned from the Boy Scouts in 1974 after three Scouts alleged he had fondled them, according to internal documents, known as a confidential list, that were kept by the Boy Scouts. Neither the Boy Scouts nor the parents of the children involved reported the alleged assaults to police, according to the documents.
Eshleman's inclusion on the confidential list prevented him from being a Scout master, but Martin said he continued to attend Scout outings based on his friendship with the former scoutmaster of Troop 33 that was based out of a Lutheran church in Wilkes-Barre. There is no indication anyone from the troop was aware Eshleman was banned from the scouts.
Martin said her anger toward Eshleman lingers even after his death.
He took the childhood and the life of my son before he took his own life, she said.
At the same time, she said she feels compassion for his parents and a brother, who survive him.
You have to have compassion for his family because they're also innocent victims, she said. It's got to be hard for them. … They're left with this god-awful legacy he left behind.
Kenneth L. Eshleman, 63, of Lititz, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.