An organization that tracks sexual abuse by clergy considers William Mueller one of the 10 most prolific accused abusers of children in the history of the Catholic Church in America.
Mueller's known accusers in Colorado, Texas and Missouri number 40. That many have been identified in lawsuits and police reports.
At least a dozen more have contacted leaders of the Society of Mary religious order to report that Mueller used the guise of pursuing a master's degree in psychology in order to get them to submit to experiments involving ether, heavy breathing, blindfolding and touching.
"We've only known about this guy for less than three years, and already 40 people have come forward," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, better known as SNAP. "Once all is known, and I'm estimating conservatively, I'd guess that the victims number at least in the 60s. He will probably end up being one of the top 10 worst abusers we've ever seen in terms of sheer numbers."
Clohessy said Mueller's alleged brand of abuse is seldom seen, even in Clohessy's world, where nightmarish stories of sex abuse by clergy color every day.
Clohessy said he believes Mueller is among "the worst predators" for the following reasons: "We typically see two different kinds of abusers in these situations: Those who use terror or violence to coerce victims, and others who use manipulation. William Mueller was the worst of both worlds. Because of his use of chemicals and fear and threats of violence with weapons, he's among the worst predators."
Although not every accusation leveled against Mueller includes specific recollections of sexual abuse during the experiments, more than half of those cited in lawsuits and police reports do. Clohessy compared the experiments to rape, where the perpetrator finds sexual gratification in exercising control over someone else.
One of Mueller's St. Louis accusers who has filed a lawsuit, Timothy Kluempers, does not have specific recollections of being fondled, but he suspects it, and he's convinced that Mueller was somehow gratified, even if there was no touching.
"It was for (Mueller's) own, I guess, sexual ulterior motives," Kluempers testified.
Patrick Noaker, the Minnesota lawyer who represents Mueller accuser Bryan Bacon in a St. Louis lawsuit, deposed Mueller.
"He acted like a criminal" during the deposition by invoking his right not to incriminate himself, Noaker said. "We're used to seeing that kind of behavior from a street thug, not from clergy."
Equally appalling, according to Clohessy, is the proof that's come out in the course of the lawsuit that at least three Marianist provincials, heads of the order, knew that Mueller was behaving improperly with students. Clohessy said the inaction of the Marianist leaders allowed Mueller to continue mistreating students each time they left him in a school where abuse had been reported or transferred him to a new school full of potential victims.
"You know how they say if it looks like a duck and acts like a duck, then it's a duck?" said Clohessy. "Well, this guy has looked like and acted like a child molester for decades. The notion that somehow, in 2000-something, the light went on in the Marianists' heads defies common sense.
"In a legal sense, maybe the Marianists were protecting themselves by providing paychecks to pedophiles without warning anyone about what they knew. In a moral sense, common decency required them to call the police decades ago."