2012 Crime: One case dominated

Bourne, Walker child sex abuse case divides Mammoth

Few Mammoth locals will ever forget Jan. 4, the day Mammoth Hospital surgeon and school board member Andrew Bourne and longtime Mammoth resident Joe Walker, were arrested on suspicion of various counts of child sexual abuse against a young Santa Barbara girl, whose family had long been friends with both men.

The charges stemmed from allegations that both men, who were good friends, at different times and over the course of several years, had communicated with the girl via email and in person in order to “facilitate sexual activity.”

Authorities also charged Walker with “illegal sexual activity” with the child, who was between 14 and 15 years of age when the activities began.

Originally, Walker, a former owner of the Looney Bean coffee shop, was arrested and booked on six counts of illegal communication with a minor to facilitate sexual activity and one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, according to the Santa Barbara Police Department. Authorities also arrested Bourne on eight counts of illegal communication with a minor to facilitate sexual activity.”

By the end of January, Bourne killed himself. Although the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office stated it had intended to file more charges against Bourne, all charges were dropped when Bourne died.

By the end of March, Walker pleaded guilty to five felony counts of “illegal sexual activity with a minor” out of a total of 21 counts leveled against him. He was sentenced to five years in state prison.

In June, the victim’s family filed a lawsuit claiming damages against both the Bourne and Walker estates in a civil case that has yet to be finalized.

At the sentencing, the female juvenile victim’s father and mother had written letters read aloud to the court by the family’s attorney.

“Nothing will ever make up for the years that have been stolen from my girl,” the mother wrote, “and nothing will ever make up for the girl that has been stolen from us.”

The issue was one of the town’s most divisive, pitting supporters of Bourne and Walker, who believed the charges to be trumped up—or outright wrong—against others more skeptical.

A large memorial service, hosted by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area for the doctor who had saved so many lives and repaired so many bodies, was criticized by some, applauded by others.

In the end, there were few answers and there were no winners. The families of both of the men and the young girl struggled—and still struggle today—to come to terms with what happened.