Fight to rename Allen Field continues

AUGUSTA – The name of Allen Field may not mean much to some people, but to others, it conjures up memories of a man who betrayed their trust.

In 1978, Augusta City Council approved a measure to name the town’s baseball field after a man named Harold Allen. Since then, several people have pushed to rename the field, which is located on Second Street in Augusta.

Despite numerous attempts to reach him, the current mayor, Wendell High, did not respond to requests for comment about the baseball field and its name.

Allen was a baseball coach in Augusta for many years until November 1985, when he was arrested by the Augusta Police Department and charged with two counts of first-degree sodomy.

According to reports at the time, the charges stemmed from allegations of abuse from two boys on his baseball team. The names of those individuals have never been released, but since then two others have come forward with complaints about Allen.

Steven Leeds remembers being a member on Allen’s baseball team when he was about 12 years old and how Allen had a way of making the team members feel special.

“He friended you,” Leeds, who now makes his home in Florida, said. “He would want you to go to Reds games with him or he’d take you to King’s Island and other places. I was poor. He would buy stuff for me. In the beginning, he would come over and take me fishing. We were getting closer. I would spend the night at his house. I didn’t really know there was anything to be afraid of. I would sleep on the couch and other friends would be there.”

Leeds said he remembers the day his opinion of Allen changed.

“I had been sick for about two weeks,” he said. “When I was finally feeling better, my mom let me go fishing down on the riverbank. I was someone who liked to hunt and I carried my rifle around with me a lot. I was sitting there, and Harold came over and asked if he could sit with me. I told him it was fine. We sat for a while and talked. At one point, I was baiting my hook and I felt a hand on my head, turning it around. There stood Harold with his (privates) in my face. I grabbed my rifle and he backed up, but he told me that if I told anyone, to remember that he knew my sisters. I took that to mean he would do something to them.”

Leeds said he ignored Allen’s words and did tell people what happened, but most of the response was people telling him that Allen was a sick man and to stay away from him.

That was when he decided to take matters into his own hands, Leeds said.

“I saved up money and I bought special bullets, because I knew exactly what I was going to do and I didn’t want to have anything spark and set a fire,” Leeds said. “I went to a tobacco field near Harold’s and I started shooting up his house. He was still out and walking around town when I did it. He wasn’t home.”

Leeds said it was what happened after he shot Allen’s house that stayed with him.

“He asked a bunch of us to help him tear it down, because he was getting a new trailer,” Leeds said. “He paid us, so we tore it down for him. While we were working, we found a box. It had pictures in it. The pictures were of boys in their underwear. Some of these pictures had to go way back, because they were of kids we’d never met. But, some of them we recognized.”

Those pictures were part of the evidence later used against Allen.

According to news reports at the time, on Nov. 15, 1985, Allen was arrested by the Augusta Police Department after the parents of two boys on his baseball team contacted police to make a complaint.

At the time, Phil Cummins was Augusta police chief and his brother, Greg Cummins, served as an officer.

Phil Cummins said he had heard complaints about Allen for several years before he was arrested.

“When I became police chief in 1978, I was told that there were two people who were going to give me trouble,” Phil Cummins said. “There was an arsonist and Harold Allen. I was also told that if I went after Allen, I’d probably be fired. He was the kind of person who controlled everything about the kids in town. He was the baseball coach and he could control who made the team and who didn’t. He just had control over the youth. I had my suspicions about Harold Allen based on what I heard and what I saw.”

Phil Cummins said he believes the department had a good case against Allen at the time of his arrest.

“I have no doubt that he would have been convicted,” he said. “People say, ‘well, he wasn’t convicted.’ No, he wasn’t, but he convicted himself. When the man was at the police department, after we confronted him with the evidence, he said, “I did it. I did some really bad things and I don’t know how to face these people. My life is over and I’ll probably just kill myself.” He tried to commit suicide and was taken to the hospital. He succeeded later.”

In regards to the Allen Field sign, Phil Cummins said he believes it needs to be removed.

“There is a lot of controversy regarding that sign,” he said. “I don’t know why that is. It seems pretty simple to me. You just go up, take a few bolts out and take it down. That will be the end of the controversy. The man was a long-term, serial pedophile and the park should not be named for him.”

Greg Cummins was one of the investigating officers and he still remembers the evidence he found in Allen’s house.

“We had been receiving complaints for a while about Harold Allen,” Greg Cummins said. “We had witnessed numerous boys going in and out of his house. Phil Cummins, my brother, was chief at the time and he took the first complaint. A father said his son had been molested by Harold Allen. There were two young boys involved with the case at that time. We interviewed the children and had them examined. We were able to obtain a search warrant for the house.”

Greg Cummins said what he found inside the home still makes him sick to think about.

According to Greg Cummins, there were dozens of photographs of young boys in inappropriate attire and poses.

“There was child pornography that spanned probably several decades,” Greg Cummins said. “There were video tapes, books and magazines and alcohol sitting around in the open. In the bathroom, we found the most incriminating evidence against him.”

Greg Cummins said the officers found two pairs of underwear with a hole cut out in them.

“We went straight to the county attorney and obtained an arrest warrant,” Greg Cummins said. “We arrested Harold at his work and took him to the police station. When I confronted him with the underwear, he had a deer in the headlights look and said he couldn’t face those parents.”

Allen was lodged in the Mason County Detention Center. While in custody, he attempted suicide and was taken to Meadowview Regional Medical Center, where he stayed until he committed suicide by hanging in December 1985.

Greg Cummins said he has no doubt that, had the case gone to trial, Allen would have been convicted, but once a suspect is dead, the case ends.

“As far as prosecution, that was the end of it,” he said. “We suspected as many as 10 boys were harmed by Harold and we had two who were ready to go to trial. After he died, three other boys told me Harold had hurt them, too.”

A recent freedom of information request for the evidence from The Ledger Independent was met with a letter from current Police Chief Matt Jones. In the letter, Jones said the evidence was no longer available.

“Despite a thorough search for the records, it has been determined that the requested records are no longer in the possession of the Augusta Police Department/City of Augusta,” he said. “It is likely that any such records that may have previously been in the possession of the Augusta Police Department/City of Augusta were destroyed some time ago, given their age.”

Greg Cummins said many in the town still do not like to talk about what Allen did and some refuse to believe it.

“Things kind of died down for a bit, until the sign for Allen Field was placed,” he said.

The sign was not placed at the field until the early 2000s. There are no records with the exact date the sign was placed.

Greg Cummins said he still remembers people being upset about the sign being installed at the field.

“When that sign went up, people were angry,” he said. “Even him being a suspect should have kept the park from being named for him. There are people who say Harold never hurt them, but people like that are careful about the ones they target.”

Mike Browning, who is now 65 years old, spoke out about Allen for the first time in hopes of having the sign removed, though Browning said he is uncomfortable discussing details.

“I knew Harold,” Browning said. “I wasn’t on his baseball team. He was my mother’s cousin, so I grew up around him. My mother used to tell me to stay away from him, because she didn’t trust him. She knew what he was — a child molester. I never told anyone what he did, but he wasn’t a man to be trusted.”

Browning said he was upset when the sign was later placed at the baseball field.

“I think the sign needs to come down,” he said. “It’s not something we should have to see.”

Leeds shared similar sentiments about the sign.

“It was like a slap in the face to all of us,” Leeds said. “Harold Allen never did anything good for Augusta. There are plenty of other people they could have honored. I want to see the sign come down. He was a bad man and I still wish I had shot him that day at the riverbank.”

Others who have discussed the possibility of removing the sign include current City Council Member Jackie McMurrin.

McMurrin said while she has made no formal request at city council meetings, she has shared her thoughts with High.

“I was approached by two citizens that asked about removing or renaming the Allen Park,” she said. “I approached the mayor and city attorney informally about the request. This request has not been on the agenda or brought before the city council during my term.”

The Allen Field sign lingers over the baseball field along Second Street in Augusta. The sign was named for Harold Allen, who was arrested in 1985 for allegedly abusing two boys on his baseball team. Some residents are trying to have the sign removed.
https://maysville-online.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_100318-news-sign.jpgThe Allen Field sign lingers over the baseball field along Second Street in Augusta. The sign was named for Harold Allen, who was arrested in 1985 for allegedly abusing two boys on his baseball team. Some residents are trying to have the sign removed.

 

Christy Howell-Hoots

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