Commentary

A father's justice

Updated: October 10, 2012, 2:53 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Jody Plauchecourtesy of Jody PlaucheJody Plauche now spends time speaking about child sexual abuse after his coach began molesting him at age 10 and only stopped after kidnapping Jody when he was 11.

Jerry Sandusky was lucky.

He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years on Tuesday. Not all pedophiles get that far.

Meet karate coach Jeff Doucet.

Jeff Doucet
courtesy of Jody PlaucheJeff Doucet, like many molesters, tested the limits with Jody Plauche to groom him for abuse.

That's him, walking off a plane and into the Baton Rouge, La., airport on March 16, 1984. There's a sheriff with him. News cameras are rolling. He's accused of repeatedly molesting an 11-year-old boy, Jody Plauche, then kidnapping him to Disneyland. A rape kit proved he sodomized him more there.

Now meet Jody's dad, Gary Plauche.

That's him, waiting by a bank of pay phones. He's got a .38 snub-nosed revolver in his right boot. He's facing the wall, talking on one of the phones to his best friend, Jimmy.

"Here he comes," Gary whispered. "You're about to hear a shot."

Then Gary Plauche reached down for the gun, spun around and fired a hollow-point bullet into Doucet's brain from three feet away. Then he lowered the gun, turned around and hung up the phone. A TV camera caught it all. Doucet would be dead within 24 hours. (Editor's note: The video is powerful and discretion is advised.)

At the Plauche residence, Gary's wife, June, was just coming home and turned on the news.

"An unidentified man has shot Jeff Doucet in the airport," the news anchor said. June's knees buckled. She fell backward onto the carpet.

When June saw Gary that night in lockup, the first thing she said was, "You're going to hell for this, you know that, right?"

"I know," Gary said.

Hell, maybe. Jail, no.

Gary Plauche got seven years on a suspended sentence, five years probation, and 300 hours of community service, which he did at his local church, mostly cutting the grass. The judge said he was no threat to the community.

Gary Plauche
courtesy of Jody PlaucheA judge said that Gary Plauche, shown here attending a Saints game, was no threat to the community, so he received a suspended sentence for killing his son's molester.

And how did the boy feel? He was angry -- at his dad.

"I didn't want him dead," says Jody Plauche, now 40. "I just wanted him to stop."

Jody went on to be a four-sport letterman in high school, but the most important thing he's done is teach parents how to reduce the risk of pedophiles such as Doucet and Sandusky molesting their kids, through his work at a victims' services center in Norristown, Penn.

"I got a letter once from a woman, who wrote, 'I told my daughter if somebody ever touches you inappropriately, it's not murder. It's worse than murder. It kills a child's soul.' So what's that little girl supposed to say if she ever gets molested?" says Plauche. "She doesn't want her soul to die. So she doesn't tell anybody."

Jody's dad made the same mistake.

"My dad was absolutely too extreme," Jody said. "He used to tell people, 'If anybody ever touches my kid, I'll kill him.' I knew he wasn't kidding. That's why I couldn't tell anybody. And that's exactly what he ended up doing."

Doucet's abuse of Plauche started one day when he asked which of his young athletes wanted to learn to drive.

Jody's hand shot up. Next thing you knew, he was sitting on Doucet's lap, steering a 280Z.

"But then his hands were in my lap," said Plauche, who was 10 at the time. "I'm thinking, 'What's going on here? Maybe it's an accident?' So I didn't say anything. But now I know he was testing the boundaries. Textbook pedophilia. They all test boundaries. Sandusky played tickle monster."

Doucet would stop practice and send the rest of the kids to 7-Eleven for snacks. "Not you, Jody," he'd add. "I need to do some extra work with you." And he'd shepherd him into his back room.

[+] EnlargeJody Plauche
courtesy of Jody PlaucheJody Plauche, shown years after his abduction, was afraid to tell his dad about his abuser because his father might kill the man. As an adult, Plauche encourages parents to not talk about sexual abuse in extreme terms.

There's a certain kind of sick manipulation that pedophile coaches use. Jody would come up with all kinds of excuses why he didn't want to go to karate practice. Doucet would show up at his house anyway and drag him off. Jody's mom let him go because she thought coaches knew best.

One day, Doucet grabbed the boy and took him on a bus from Port Arthur, Texas, bound for Los Angeles. Jody went missing for 10 days until Doucet finally let him call his mom, collect. Police tracked the call to a motel in Anaheim. Doucet would be extradited back to Baton Rouge and his death.

"My dad went to the airport figuring he was going to die," says the son. "He said either Jeff or him was gonna die that night."

Jody is still single and says, "I don't want kids. Do I not want them because of what happened? Probably. And I'm not gay. I like women. I just … my cousin lost his child at 6 years old. I don't ever want to feel that kind of pain."

The pain he used to feel every time he looked at his father is gone now, though.

"It's not right to take someone's life," he says, "but when someone's that bad a person, it doesn't bother you much in the long run."

Says June, "Are you kidding? Do you know how many kids weren't molested because he's no longer on this earth?"

Jody works in Baton Rouge now, but he still speaks often on child sexual abuse. He'll join boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart on a panel in late October at, remarkably, Penn State University.

Gary, though, doesn't speak much at all anymore, after suffering a stroke four years ago. But surely he remembers.

One day, maybe a year after the murder, he and his son were walking along when they saw a man who looked strikingly like Doucet.

Jody was trembling.

"Wow," he said to his dad. "I really thought it was him!"

Gary paused a second and then said, plainly, "I knew it wasn't."

Rick Reilly | email

Columnist, ESPN.com

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