AUGUSTA, Maine — A woman who allegedly was sexually abused as a young girl by a decorated sheriff’s deputy told a jury Tuesday that the deputy was her “best friend” but ultimately betrayed her trust.
Kenneth L. Hatch III, 47, a deputy with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, is on trial this week at the Capital Judicial Center on charges that he sexually abused three girls, allegedly often in the back of his cruiser and often in exchange for marijuana.
One charge alleges he abused the woman who testified Tuesday, who is now 19 years old, when she was only 6.
“Growing up, we were pretty close,” the woman said of Hatch, who he said babysat for her and her younger brother. She said her family spent time at his home with his family. The summer after she started eighth grade, she began patrolling with him in his cruiser and going fishing and hunting “for deer and bunnies and turkeys.”
The woman said that one night when she was six, as she and her younger brother lay in bed with Hatch and his wife watching movies, Hatch moved her hand to touch him inappropriately. She told Assistant Attorney General John Risler, who is prosecuting the case, that she remembers how old she was mostly because she remembers turning away from Hatch and hugging her little brother and “thinking how small he was compared to me.”
She acknowledged she had a troubled adolescence, having been expelled from Cony High School and then Gardiner High School for alcohol and marijuana use. She described a number of occasions after she turned 14 when Hatch allegedly agreed to give her marijuana — at one point directly from a police evidence bag — or buy her liquor if she’d have sex with him.
She described the first time they allegedly had sex in the back of his cruiser, and said that afterwards, “I threw up in my mouth.” She said they usually had sex in the cruiser on Crocker Road, near Hatch’s home.
She said the two of them had sex about 10 times, although she estimated she went on 100 “ride-alongs” with him.
Hatch’s defense attorney, Richard Elliott, cross-examined the victim about discrepancies in the details of what she initially told investigators and the grand jury, and what she told Risler on the stand Tuesday morning.
“Why is it your statements keep changing, and they change the closer you get to the trial?” Elliott asked.
“Because I was coming to the police about something huge that I was dealing with so I was a little bit emotionally unstable,” she said, adding later, “It’s been about six years since that happened.”
“So your memory is getting better as time goes on,” Elliott asked?
“In some places,” she replied.
“And it’s getting better in places that help convict Ken Hatch,” he said, asking if it was true that she told the state she also had sex with another person “when she was too young,” but didn’t want that person prosecuted.
“So you’re pushing to get this man convicted?” Elliott said of Hatch.
“Absolutely,” she replied.
The trial got under way Monday, with two other women testifying Monday that Hatch sexually abused them when they were 14 and 15 years old. Both said he provided them with alcohol — all three women have alleged he provided them with Bacardi Limon — and marijuana.
Elliott asked the alleged victim why, if she threw up in her mouth and “didn’t like it” when they had sex, did it happen at least nine more times, and why did she continue the ride-alongs. He said she was jealous that, after she became a mother, she was no longer able to spend time with Hatch though her younger brother continued to do so.
“Because of the fact that he is … my best friend and I spent every day with him, no matter what we were doing,” she said.