The Maine State Police should take another look at its report on the nine-month investigation into the late Bob Carlson to see if there is more information that could be released without compromising Carlson’s victims.
They should do so because of Carlson’s influence in this community and because of allegations that other trusted community members, including police officers, failed to act on their suspicions about him thereby allowing the sexual abuse of children by Carlson to go unchecked for decades.
They should do so because the community deserves to know as much as possible without putting the victims’ identities at risk or exposing specific and hurtful details of the abuse.
They should do so because one can hope that there are lessons for us all to learn in the pages of that report that were not released to the public.
The agency should not do it because a fellow who was a police officer in Westbrook for a few years in the 1970s and who now lives in Arizona has accused them of a engaging in a coverup.
Brian Gagan of Scottsdale, Ariz., was among those who conducted a psychological autopsy of the 2011 triple homicide of Amy, Cody and Monica Lake, who were killed by their husband and father, Steven Lake, in Dexter.
Gagan, who grew up in Westbrook, conducted the psychological autopsy along with three other former police officers, including Dr. Michael Sefton. They did it free of charge and presented a series of recommendations to the state.
When the group proposed performing the autopsy, Deputy Attorney General William Stokes said he welcomed the help.
Most recently Gagan was asked for his opinion on the MSP report into Carlson and said “too much is inarguably being covered up”
“When the state police don’t disclose stuff it means there is stuff they don’t want disclosed … it’s a coverup.”
I thought those were strong words. A pretty serious allegation to make on the front page of the newspaper and I wondered whether Gagan and his group were becoming informal consultants of sorts on highly publicized criminal cases in Maine.
I called Gagan up on Thursday and we talked a bit about his background and his commitment to protecting children from being molested in Maine and keeping firearms from domestic abusers.
Very good goals to be sure.
Once a police officer, always a police officer, he said.
“It’s like riding a bike.”
He also suggested that no one “knows for sure that [Carlson] actually jumped off that bridge,” suggesting that perhaps he was pushed.
Gagan was a police officer in Westbrook and Scarborough during the 1970s, he said. Though full-time officers, even then, were required to attend and graduate from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy or an out-of-state police academy, Gagan said he didn’t graduate from any police academy.
It was possible during that time to be a part-time officer without graduating from the academy.
He has not worked in law enforcement since.
I then asked about Dr. Sefton, who was placed on leave from his job as a psychologist at Grafton High School in Massachusetts in May 2011 after it was discovered by a member of the media that his license to practice had been revoked in Massachusetts in 2008 for having sexual relations with a patient.
School administrators were unaware of the revocation when they hired Sefton. He resigned from his job at Grafton High School in June 2011 after it was made public that he did not have a license to practice.
Gagan informed me that the situation with Sefton was a “gray area” and that the woman was the aggressor.
Sefton’s license to practice psychology in Massachusetts remains revoked, according to the Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation Office in Massachusetts.
He now works as a police officer in Braintree, Mass.
Truthfully, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was planning to write about Gagan and Sefton’s role in Maine’s law enforcement arena.
I wasn’t sure what I thought about Gagan’s credibility and I was sifting it around and thinking of coming up with a different column idea.
And then I returned home and found he had left me a voicemail message.
He said they expected that people would try to discredit them and that they were prepared.
“We’ve held back enough direct evidence and witness testimony and everything else that if anyone wants to play any games or play discrediting then we will just go public with … a lot of things and at least five or six subjects that you and I haven’t discussed and we haven’t discussed with anybody up until now so hopefully that won’t be the case.”
I’m not sure, but I think there was a threat couched in there somewhere.
Holding back evidence to use later against someone questioning your credentials doesn’t seem very respectable or officerlike at all.
Things I was unsure of earlier in the day became clearer.
But Gagan and Sefton aside, and I would argue that is where they should be, the investigative report into Carlson should be revisited, perhaps by an independent party, to determine whether there is more to be released to the public.
The state police are right that there are laws to protect victims and witnesses, but it would appear that the state is taking the most conservative approach and perhaps unnecessarily so.
It leaves room for speculation and conspiracy theories and this case is horrifying enough on its own merit.
Renee Ordway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.