SAN DIEGO – Camera phones are now banned at the Children's Hospital and Health Center's convalescent unit. The curtains around patients must be left open most of the time. And administrators are considering installing security cameras in patients' rooms.
The precautions were prompted by one man: Wayne Albert Bleyle, a respiratory therapist accused of molesting brain-damaged, comatose boys and girls, taking cell-phone photos of himself in the act, and posting them on the Internet.
"This is the worst case of child molestation imaginable," prosecutor Laura Gunn said in court last week. "I don't know if we've ever seen a case like it before where the victims were so vulnerable."
Bleyle, 54, is in jail on $5 million bail after pleading not guilty to two counts of child molestation and 24 counts of child pornography. But Gunn said Bleyle molested many more patients over the past decade, preying on the hospital's weakest of the weak, including youngsters who would never be able to speak.
Gunn said that when an investigator asked how many children he had abused, Bleyle replied: "How many snowflakes are there out there?"
Questions are swirling about how a trusted, 25-year employee could be accused of such horrific crimes -- and at a hospital highly regarded for its ability to detect child abuse. Bleyle had no criminal record, and nothing was amiss in background checks conducted every two years as part of the state licensing process.
Bleyle has not spoken publicly since his arrest last week. His attorney, Michael Begovich, has declined to comment.
Police Chief William Lansdowne said the investigation began about three weeks ago after investigators got a tip about child pornography on the Internet.
Colleagues, some left almost speechless by the allegations, said Bleyle was an engaging, hardworking therapist who volunteered for extra shifts, reassured parents and served as a mentor to new hires. He was also known as overly talkative and was regarded as something of a know-it-all with a tendency to second-guess even doctors.
"He had an opinion about everything," said Pamela Dixon, director of the 59-bed convalescent center. "He would always have to add something, like he was expert. ... He liked to be in the limelight."
"You dreaded asking him about his vacation because he would talk to you for an hour about what he did," she said. "You could ask him what time it was, it would take you half an hour."
The Rev. John Breding, who was director of pastoral care at the hospital, described Bleyle as a conscientious employee who was active in church and looked on as a leader. "People with less experience would go to him," he said.
Bleyle lived for years in the San Diego suburb of Santee with his wife, Dianne. A prosecutor said she recently ordered her husband out of the house; he was living in a trailer when he was arrested. Bleyle's wife did not answer her door on Saturday and did not respond to a message left there.
Curtains around patients' rooms can no longer be closed unless an invasive procedure is under way. In addition to banning all cell phones and looking into surveillance cameras, the hospital is also considering requiring the presence of two medical professionals during more procedures.