Suspect in rape likely knew his victim

Posted Dec. 19, 2008, at 8:02 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:09 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Passadumkeag man arrested Friday in connection with a brutal attack on a 60-year-old woman in her home on Oct. 29 most likely had known his victim for years. He and the woman’s son were in the same class in school growing up, according to a local official.

Derwin “Tiger” Springer Jr., 38, of Passadumkeag is scheduled to appear Monday in Penobscot County Superior Court on charges of gross sexual assault and burglary.

The woman lives on Pleasant Street less than half a mile from Springer’s parents.

Physical evidence from a rape kit assembled at the hospital where the woman was taken matched Springer’s DNA, according to a state police affidavit filed in Superior Court in Bangor. Springer’s DNA was obtained from an oral swab police collected from him during an interview, according to court documents.

Springer was arrested by Maine State Police detectives at about 9 a.m. at his parents’ home on Union Street in Passadumkeag, according to Stephen McCausland, state police spokesman.

News of the arrest, First Selectman Dale Randall said Friday afternoon, probably will relieve residents’ anxiety about the sexual assault, but was in the end “a mixed blessing.”

“It is good to know that it looks like someone is being held accountable for the crime,” said Randall, a retired schoolteacher. “A lot of people will breathe a little easier and won’t be so uptight with having an arrest made, but it’s still a tragedy for the two families, and they know each other.”

The suspect shared a fourth-grade class with a son of the victim, Randall said, and both families almost certainly knew each other well, given the small, intimate nature of Passadumkeag. “I am sure he had been at [the victim’s] house many times” as a youth, he said.

Randall taught Springer as a fourth-grader, describing him as “a rather active kid, just getting into mischief,” he said. “You would have him in the front row near your desk and you had to watch him.”

The state police affidavit detailed the nighttime burglary and sexual assault.

The woman was asleep in her bedroom in the early morning hours of Oct. 29, the affidavit said. She was awakened when a man placed a gloved hand on her nose and mouth. She told investigators that she struggled with the man but was unable to breathe and lost consciousness.

When the woman came to, according to the affidavit, she had a pillowcase on her head, she was naked from the waist down, and the man was attempting to rape her. She told him to stop at least three times, but the man did not speak to her, the affidavit said.

After the sexual assault, according to the affidavit, the woman said she heard the basement door that leads to the outside close. She removed the pillowcase from her head; it had been secured with duct tape.

The woman tried to call the police but her phone was “disabled,” according to the affidavit. She drove to her son’s home and called police. The location of his home was not disclosed in court documents.

The woman was taken by ambulance to Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln and transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor before she was released, police said shortly after the attack.

When investigators went to the woman’s home after interviewing her, they found pry marks on exterior doors, including one in the basement, according to the affidavit. They also recovered a pillowcase with duct tape on it.

Details about what led investigators to Springer are not included in the affidavit, but detectives interviewed him on Dec. 16 at 13th District Court in Lincoln. He allegedly admitted knowing the victim but denied sexually assaulting her. He told police that he had not been at her house for at least two years, according to the affidavit.

The Nov. 26 report of a separate home invasion in Passadumkeag is still under investigation, Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said Friday. A Goulds Ridge Road woman told police that an unidentified man forced his way into her home on Nov. 25, according to a report previously published in the Bangor Daily News.

Almy declined Friday to say whether Springer was a suspect in that incident.

Springer is being held at Penobscot County Jail until a Superior Court judge can set bail next week.

Almy said shortly after Springer’s arrest that his office would recommend he be held without bail because of the serious nature of the assault.

If convicted, Springer faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 on the Class A gross sexual assault charge and up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 on the Class B burglary charge.

Springer has a criminal record dating back to 1989, according to information obtained in a criminal background check. He has several convictions for misdemeanors including theft, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. In every case, Springer was sentenced to pay fines but not to jail time.

He last was arrested on July 17 by Lincoln police on a charge of operating under the influence of intoxicants. That case is pending in 13th District Court in Lincoln.

Passadumkeag is a community of about 440 people located 15 miles north of Old Town. Pleasant Street is about a mile long, off U.S. Route 2, near the Penobscot River.

Surrounded by several shorter roads and cul-de-sacs, Pleasant Street is the main road of the community, with a U.S. Postal Service branch office, church, town office and volunteer fire station along it.

The crime caused a substantial increase in the number of concealed-weapon permit applications among residents, particularly women, Randall said. He received many telephone calls from residents who said that they had bought bolt locks, were keeping their outdoor lights on at night, and wanted to know what else they could do to improve their safety.

“Nothing like this has ever happened here before,” Randall said.

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