The case began with a call from a woman worried that her husband was molesting one of his stepdaughters.
Before it was over, Detective Chris Forsythe would find "a lot of nightmares," decades of incest and child sexual abuse that, authorities say, became one family's tradition.The family patriarch, Marion Reynolds Stogner, 70, is being held on $100,000 bail in Arizona for investigation of engaging in lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14. Prosecutors say he abused two close family members between 1955 and 1964.
His sons are accused of repeating his behavior.
One, Randy Stogner, 46, pleaded no contest Thursday to charges of molesting his two stepdaughters from 1995 to 1997 and was sentenced to one year in jail. A second son, John Stogner, 34, has served seven years in prison for molestation in a separate case.
"The incest conduct was so pervasive in this family that the victims did not even realize it was wrong. They thought that this was a normal way of life," prosecutor Mary Knox said.
To protect the victims, officials have given few details of the alleged crimes.
But Forsythe, who works for the Contra Costa County Sheriff, said he found the relationships between victims and suspects so complicated "I had to draw a flow chart to figure them out."
One of Marion Stogner's two alleged victims, now a grown woman, was later abused by his son Randy during the early 1970s, Knox said. That charge was dropped in return for Thursday's plea.
The case began to come together last August when Randy Stogner's second wife, who has since divorced him, told authorities of her suspicions.
Forsythe began talking to family members, peeling back layers of secrets and pain with each interview.
Randy Stogner had come to authorities' attention once before, in the early 1980s, when he reported that he suspected his brother John of abusing children at Randy's Ranch, a now-defunct day-care facility Randy Stogner was running.
The earliest abuse within the family allegedly took place in 1955, while the Stogners were living in Contra Costa County, a suburban area east of San Francisco. Forsythe said the family was poor and led a nomadic existence.