Monday, December 9, 2013
Maine needs an Anti-Tiptoe Law.
It could be inserted right into the gaping cracks in the state's Child Protection Act -- a fitting rebuke to the fancy dancing that surrounded the long and lurid career of the late Rev. Bob Carlson.
Carlson, you'll recall, was the guy everyone around the Bangor area spent years glorifying as the backslapping, straight-talking minister who could do no wrong -- only to find after he jumped off the Penobscot Narrows Bridge last November that he in fact did a lot wrong.
Last week's release of a heavily redacted Maine State Police report confirmed much of what surfaced in the days immediately following Carlson's suicide: While the community around him thought he was saving souls, he was actually devouring them.
Police investigators found that multiple children -- we'll likely never know how many -- fell victim over a period of decades to Carlson's predatory ways.
But that's not all they found.
Lots of people, many in high places, knew that something about this guy's attraction to kids wasn't quite right. Yet no one sounded the alarm until an anonymous letter alerted authorities, just before Carlson was to receive a "distinguished citizen" award from the Boy Scouts of America, that the man of God was actually the devil in disguise.
"I would appreciate it if this would be investigated," urged the letter writer ever so respectfully.
To be sure, the investigative findings released last week provide far less insight -- and draw painfully fewer conclusions -- than former FBI Director Louis Freeh's no-holds-barred probe of Penn State University and its football coach/child molester, Jerry Sandusky.
Still, the documents reveal that while Carlson indulged his perversions, many in his Bangor-area good-old-boys network tiptoed around him, unwilling to connect the dots even as the predatory patterns took shape right before their eyes.
We have Bob Welch, a retired Bangor police officer who now works for the University of Maine Police Department, telling an investigator how for eight months back in 2004 and 2005 he repeatedly saw Carlson's "distinctive looking" Ford Crown Victoria parked several evenings a week in the darkest corner of a parking lot near Welch's home.
"Then one time when Carlson was leaving the parking lot, Welch observed a child with him," reported state police Detective Dean Jackson.
Welch actually spoke to a Bangor police detective about the strange behavior at the time, Jackson continued, and "they discussed putting up surveillance cameras in the area."
They eventually nixed that idea, however, "because Carlson always parked in the darkest areas and they felt they would not be able to get any usable pictures."
Usable pictures? Why not march (not tiptoe) over to Carlson's vehicle, rap on the window and see for yourselves what's going on?
We have Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross, who first learned from state police on Nov. 10 that they were investigating Carlson -- a close friend to Ross and a longtime chaplain and visitor to the Penobscot County Jail.
Two days later, according to state police Lt. Christopher Coleman, a "troubled" Ross called Carlson and told him about the investigation. Why?
"Glenn did this for several reasons," reported Coleman. "First, he wanted to let Bob know to stay away from the jail until the matter was settled. Second, he wanted to protect the agency and himself."
Two days after Ross tipped him off, Carlson jumped to his death.
We have Maine Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley, who was president of Husson University when Carlson served as the school's chaplain.
For months after Carlson's death last fall, Beardsley refused to talk to police at all. Last month, he finally sat down with state police Sgt. Troy Gardner and acknowledged that he received a call in 2005 from a minister friend in Vermont who wanted Beardsley to be "sensitized" to the fact that Carlson "was not who he appeared to be."
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