We lived in South Carolina during the latter half of the 1990s.

In our small city, there was a dentist who operated a sprawling, sparkling clinic, complete with a cascading fountain in the lobby. He was known as “the million-dollar dentist.” It was the largest practice in town, employing multiple dentists and staff. The place dripped success. It made sense. The owner who was also the head dentist came from a very influential family. This was the place where you wanted to be seen for all tooth needs.

My better half Judy took a job there and spent her first day with the head dentist. That Monday night when she came home, she was barely in the door before she said, “I don’t like this guy.”

Judy is an astute judge of character. When she meets someone, she zeroes in much faster than me. We’ve left meetings, and on the ride home in the car, she would break down the good and the bad. There were more than several occasions where after I was done effusing about someone, she’d turn to me and say, “Be careful with them.”

And she’d be right 99% of the time.

Judy would tell you I’m too trusting. I would agree. I’m the one who will trust you up front and wait for you to screw me over before I change my mind about you. With Judy, you have to earn the trust. That’s us in broad strokes. There have been exceptions, but for the most part, that’s how our dynamic acts out. Our Lennon-McCartney partnership mostly works.

“I don’t like this guy,” she said again over dinner, followed by “There’s something about him.”

By Wednesday, Judy announced to our family she had given her notice.

She didn’t like the main guy’s demeanor. She said kids instinctively didn’t like him. He was MIA for long periods in his office behind a locked door. Judy thought the guy was creepy. That’s the word she used. Well, one of them. “He skulked around. He was just weird.”

In 2000, the million-dollar dentist deal came crashing down. Not all at once. It started with an article in the local newspaper saying 2 kids had come forward saying the dentist touched them.

But not at work.

You see, dentist guy was also a scout leader. He was a family man with 2 sons and a daughter. How could this be?

With written permission from the parents, dentist guy took kids on overnight camp-outs, with him often being the only adult in charge. Bad things happened. At first, only to the kids. The perp got out of initial charges because the parents of the abused children refused to make their kids take the stand as witnesses.

Million-dollar creep continued on. People wondered if the 2 kids where lying. The dentist and his wife certainly tried to paint it that way. The wife claimed publicly they were being framed because “someone” was jealous of their success.

Damn those pesky kids and their lies.

The number of kids coming forward went up to 5, probably due to questioning from their parents since all the kids involved were scouts in the same troop with the same trusted leader.

Then the count went to 7. All with the same sordid details. That was the tipping point. That’s when the cops swept in, seized home and work computers, and made an arrest.

In newspaper lingo, that was front page headline news, above the line.

The dentist was convicted of molestation. He pleaded guilty to performing lewd acts on young boys and his home and work computers both had graphic child pornography on them.

The judge gave him 10 years, but knocked it down to a 5-year probation, provided the dentist met certain restrictions.

The dentist was allowed to keep his bustling practice, but could only manage it.

The South Carolina Dentistry Board suspended his dentistry license for 5 years and then reinstated him, but he was not allowed to work on anyone below the age of 21.

He had to take regular polygraphs.

He had to complete sex-offender counseling.

He wasn’t allowed to prescribe sedatives even if it was an adult.

He wasn’t allowed to use the office computer.

He couldn’t contact his male victims.

In a surprise audit, an investigator said there was evidence he’d used his office computer and had prescribed sedatives. In court, his lawyer got the audit tossed.

In 2012, he paid a lawyer to plead that he should be allowed to work on kids again.

He was rehabilitated. See?

He had an expert that said so.

The Dentistry Board pushed back on that a little. No, you can’t work on kids. But you can still practice and have kids visit your office to see other members of the staff for their dental needs.

The State newspaper in SC pointed out this was a good example of how you get treated when you’re a million-dollar dentist from a good family. You don’t get the same hand-slap.

If you go out to that dentist’s website now, you’ll see a highly successful business. He has dentists, hygienists, and 13 staff members as of this writing.

He proudly stands with his staff in a group photo where his dentist partner that’s allowed to work on kids sports an American flag necktie.

4.9 out of 5 on the Google reviews.

5 stars.

Still going strong.

I can understand how some pedophiles come to be. I can empathize with pathetic and dangerous upbringing. There is usually a reason why a person crosses that line.

Whatever the reason, in my house, rehabilitated or not, you don’t get to watch the kids.

I’m with Judy. Instinct is there for a reason. It’s to parlay all your experiences so you can do needed gut-checks from time to time.

A gut-check can be your best friend.

Listen to that intuition.

Or don’t.

I still remember the first time Judy came home and said, “I don’t like this guy.”

Oh, well.

5 stars.