STOCKTON SPRINGS, Maine — With an unidentified assailant still at large two days after he violently sexually assaulted a 61-year-old woman in her Stockton Springs home, this small midcoast community is rattled — but not wrecked.
“Will we think twice? Yes. Will we think about the safety of ourselves and our children? Yes. Will we lock the doors? Yes,” resident Sharon Catus said Wednesday afternoon. “Will we allow it to absolutely alter our way of life? No. We’re not going to. You’re not going to cripple us with fear. You’re just not.”
Police said earlier Wednesday that they were continuing to ask for the public’s help in identifying the man, who is believed to have assaulted the woman about 3:30 p.m. Monday.
“It’s very, very serious,” said Detective Jason Bosco of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office. “Somebody is going to recognize the description of that person.”
The victim described her assailant, whom she did not know, as being between 35 and 45 years old. He’s 6 feet tall with dark hair and hazel eyes and has a distinctive facial scar on the right side of his face. The anchor-shaped scar begins under the man’s nose, circles around his mouth and ends on his chin, according to the sheriff’s office. The suspect also has tattoos on his fingers in the form of letters. It was not known what the letters spell.
He was driving a blue car with a large white decal or emblem on the hood. Bosco said the victim had not seen whether the car had a Maine license plate.
At this point, there is no composite sketch to share with the public, he said.
The woman, who contacted police after the attack, was taken to a hospital where she was treated and then released, Bosco said Tuesday afternoon. The assailant did not steal anything, according to the detective, who said he was releasing limited information about the attack because the case is under investigation.
Town Manager Rich Couch said Wednesday he was concerned about the safety of residents but that he was confident in the Waldo County Sheriff’s Department’s efforts to resolve the matter. The town’s small Police Department includes an officer who also works with the Sheriff’s Department.
“I’m proud of our Police Department here,” he said, but cautioned residents that even in small rural towns like Stockton Springs, violent crime is possible.
“This is 2012. As Pollyanna as we may be here in Maine, we have crime here,” Couch said. “And the highway leads into Maine and the highway leads out of Maine,” he added, suggesting that the alleged perpetrator may not be from the area.
“It’s a big world out there,” he said.
Catus said that she’s well aware that violent crime can happen everywhere. One of her children was a pupil at Stockton Springs Elementary School when Randall Hofland took a classroom of fifth-graders hostage at gunpoint in the fall of 2008.
That situation ultimately had a peaceful resolution and Hofland was convicted last year of 38 counts related to the Halloween hostage-taking. He is serving 35 years in prison for the crime.
Catus has not forgotten that day.
“The last time we had a fugitive at large in Stockton Springs, that particular fugitive happened to walk into the school with a gun and take hostages,” she said. “It really caught the entire community off guard. I didn’t want to see anything remotely like that happen again.”
She now has two children at the elementary school and said that she urged school officials Wednesday to take safety precautions.
RSU 20 Assistant Superintendent John McDonald said Wednesday that the school was put on “heightened alert,” meaning that the front door was locked and school officials monitored people going in and out. There were no incidents.
“We’ll be vigilant until further notice,” he said.
That’s a word that also resonated with Catus.
“This is a community where we leave our doors unlocked,” she said. “It makes you realize that you need to be vigilant. You don’t leave your door unlocked in the middle of the day.”
She also said that community members will be extremely supportive of the victim, who has not been named. It it is the BDN’s general policy not to identify victims of sex crimes.
“We are very proud of her,” Catus said, adding that she heard that the woman had met with a police sketch artist. “When you’re a victim, that can be very disempowering. One of the ways to take back the power is to do things like meet with the sketch artist. Do what you can do to get this guy — but that takes a certain amount of strength.”
If anyone has information about the assailant, police ask that they call the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office at 338-2040.
BDN Belfast Bureau Chief Tom Groening contributed to this report.