Jeffrey Epstein's relationship to the Michigan fine arts camp and boarding school where he was a major donor is again in the spotlight with his alleged accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, on trial for sex trafficking.
An Interlochen Arts Camp alum identified as "Jane" was the first of four women to testify this week, saying Maxwell and Epstein met her at the camp in the summer of 1994, when she was 14, and went on to groom and sexually abuse her for at least half a decade. Business Insider reports the pair were reportedly staying on campus in a lodge they jointly paid $200,000 to build.
The Record-Eagle has Jane's testimony of the initial encounter:
“I was in the main campus area where all the students hung out during a break and where all the little cafes were and sort of the gift shop,” the witness, testifying (under a pseudonym), told the court of her first meeting with Maxwell and Epstein.
“And I was on a park bench or a picnic bench with my friends from camp,” she continued. “And we were eating ice cream. And we see this tall thin woman approach us.”
Maxwell was walking a Yorkshire terrier and “Jane” and her friends asked to pet the dog, a court transcript of Jane’s testimony states. “And probably about a minute later, a man came and joined her,” she said. “And the rest of my friends, my classmates, left, and I was there by myself. And I sat on the bench still eating my ice cream, and the man sat across from me.”
The man was Jeffrey Epstein, who Jane said introduced himself and Maxwell as “big benefactors” of Interlochen Arts Camp, who visited the camp every summer from their home in Palm Beach, providing scholarships to camp attendees.
In a statement, an Interlochen spokesperson told the Traverse City paper: “There have been no allegations that Jeffrey Epstein abused anyone on our campus."
Maxwell is on trial in federal court in New York on a half-dozen charges that could land her in prison for up to 60 years. Epstein "killed himself" in jail while awaiting trial in 2019.
Epstein attended Interlochen's music camp as a teen and later donated up to $500,000 to the school, the Daily Beast reported in 2019. That included financing construction of the Jeffrey Epstein Scholarship Lodge, which he could stay at for two weeks per year. Epstein reportedly took at least two trips there, at least one with Maxwell in tow. He also held alumni events at the New York townhouse where he was accused of raping at least one minor.
Epstein made his last gift to the school in 2003, an Interlochen spokesperson has said.
The mother of former Interlochen student, soap opera actress Nadia Bjorlin, has previously claimed Epstein targeted her daughter on campus in 1994, when she was 13.
"She was a skinny little girl, not mature for her age," Fary Bjorlin told The Daily Mail in 2011. "She was 13, but everyone thought she was nine or ten."
Fary said she believed Epstein targeted Nadia because she was vulnerable following the death of her father, a famed classical composer.