Carlson investigation to stay open to allow possible victims a place to go

Posted Nov. 16, 2011, at 2:09 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 18, 2011, at 6:13 a.m.
The Rev. Robert Carlson
The Rev. Robert Carlson

BANGOR, Maine — Maine State Police detectives are keeping open their investigation of the Rev. Robert Carlson in hopes that more people might come forward with information.

“We want people to know that they have someone to listen,” spokesman Stephen McCausland said Wednesday. “At some point in the next few weeks, we’ll document what we’ve found and take the appropriate action.”

Carlson, a well-known and well-respected pastor and community leader in Greater Bangor, was found dead in the early morning hours Sunday, Nov. 13.

Police have concluded that he committed suicide by jumping from the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, which spans high above the Penobscot River connecting Hancock and Waldo counties.

The day after he died, details emerged that Carlson was under investigation for suspected child sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s. It’s not clear whether there was one alleged victim or more and it’s not clear how long the alleged abuse went on.

Dawn Krog of Bowdoin told the Bangor Daily News earlier this week that she spoke to a Maine State Police Detective last Friday about Carlson. Krog said her brother — whom the BDN is not identifying because he is an alleged victim — confessed to family members about an ongoing sexual relationship he had with Carlson

“Bob had been part of his life since he was 12 years old,” Krog said. “Everybody knew.”

Additionally, leaders at the Katahdin Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America said they turned over a letter concerning Carlson to state police detectives on Monday that included allegations of child sex abuse. Carlson and his wife, Elaine, were honored by the Katahdin Area Council of Boy Scouts of America with its 15th annual Distinguished Citizen Award on Nov. 9.

That letter also was sent to Gov. Paul LePage, Boy Scout leaders and local law enforcement officials.

State police launched their investigation Nov. 10.

It’s not clear if Carlson knew of the investigation. He left behind no suicide note and reportedly told no one close to him of his plans.

Asked whether anyone else is under investigation or whether anyone could be implicated in the allegations that have come out so far, McCausland said the investigation involved only Carlson at this point.

On Tuesday, former Penobscot County Sheriff Timothy Richardson said he had concerns about Carlson that dated back to the 1970s when Carlson was administrator of the Penobscot County Jail.

“[He] would come into the control room with young boys at 2, 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning,” Richardson said. “It was very uncomfortable. It was just a very odd situation.”

Richardson said he reported his concerns to the sheriff at the time, Otis N. LaBree, and then to the district attorney, David M. Cox.

“They were concerned but they didn’t take it anywhere,” Richardson said. “They didn’t want to take it anywhere. Back then they [religious leaders] were above suspicion of child abuse.” he said.

LaBree and Cox both are deceased.

Police had not conducted a search of Carlson’s home and had not requested a search warrant, according to McCausland. Police also had not reached out to authorities in Massachusetts, where Carlson grew up and reportedly attended seminary school.

McCausland said his agency has no plans to release information as it comes in.

“Once the case is closed, I suspect much of what we get will become public,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Greater Bangor community continued to struggle Wednesday with how to deal with the allegations surrounding Carlson.

Kenneth Schmidt, CEO of Penobscot Community Health Care, a nonprofit organization that Carlson founded, said the new information shocked everyone involved with PCHC.

“Since [my initial] public comment, accusations about terrible deeds and actions have been made about Rev. Carlson,” Schmidt said in a statement. “As with many, many individuals in the region, we are shocked and horrified at the thought. On behalf of PCHC, its board, and its staff, I want to be clear that we are appalled with any kind of abuse and our hearts go out to all involved.”

The Rev. Carl Schreiber , pastor of East Orrington Congregational Church, where Carlson preached for many years, issued a statement Wednesday as well.

“East Orrington Congregational Church is not an entity separate from the community, and like the greater community, we too are hurting and filled with a vast array of emotions and thoughts, pain and questions,” he said. “The church is greater than any one individual. As a family of Christian faith, we abhor abuse of any kind.

“We as a church will continue to work together to bring about healing, hope, peace, love, and forgiveness. We recognize our own frailties as humans and that our true strength comes only as we trust fully in God.”

A memorial service for Carlson will be held at the East Orrington Congregational Church at 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18.

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