CORINTH, Maine — Kimberly Drinkwater Slater wasn’t Lawrence Lewis’ daughter, but he always treated her like she was, Slater said Friday.
When Lewis moved in with Slater’s mother in Lincoln in 1993, Lewis bought a television, VCR, new bed and bedding for the then-12-year-old Slater’s bedroom. Whenever Slater needed money, Lewis gave it, and the two remained in weekly contact for years after the end of his relationship with her mother, Slater said.
“He wasn’t my father, but he did all the things a father would do,” Slater said.
That’s why Slater has found the death of Lewis, which state police are investigating as a homicide, so painful.
“It is depressing. And it is hurting, it hurts my feelings,” Slater said. “I can’t even tell you. He would basically feel that he is being targeted and I am feeling targeted.
“He is the victim and people are making him out like he is not the victim. He would give his last dollar to anybody,” she added.
The state police investigation of Lewis’ death is continuing, Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Friday. Investigators await word from the Maine State Medical Examiner’s Office as to the cause of Lewis’ death. That determination could take months.
Bruce King, 59, who also was known as Bruce Heal, was involved in a four-hour standoff with police on March 11 in a U-Haul truck on Interstate 95 just south of Lincoln that ended when he used a .30-30 rifle to take his own life.
During the standoff, King told police that he had killed Lewis by forcing him to take two bottles of nitroglycerin tablets and a bottle of psych meds because he believed that Lewis had been molesting children. King then hid the body inside Lewis’s house in Molunkus, state police said.
Lewis, 68, was on the state’s sex offender registry for life after having been convicted in 1996 of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old boy who lived in his household.
Police discovered Thursday that King was also on the sex offender registry in Massachusetts for a rape in 1985 and said he was being investigated for a sex assault in Maine that allegedly occurred in January.
State police have said that King might have been hiding out in Maine after having skipped out of Massachusetts. They said his claims against Lewis on March 11 might have been his attempt to draw attention away from himself.
Slater’s sister, Melissa Pelkey of Lincoln, said she found a horrible double standard in most people’s reactions to the death of Lewis, one that places more weight on his criminal past than his apparently wrongful death.
Newspapers “didn’t need to plaster what he had done in the past on the front page,” Pelkey said of Lewis. “It just brought up old wounds that we have already gotten over with. I just didn’t feel it was right especially with a man who got [killed] the way he did.”
“He was a good man, a kind man,” Pelkey added.
Slater said she was about 16 when Lewis was convicted for the sexual assault. Lewis had already been fighting the court battle for several years when his relationship began with Slater’s mother. He always maintained his innocence and accepted a plea bargain, Slater said, because the courtroom battle had worn him out.
“He just kept fighting and fighting,” Slater said. “The fight took up a good portion of his time with my mom. Finally he just said, ‘I’m just too old to deal with this.’ ”
Pelkey said she never saw any sexual misbehavior by Lewis.
“It wrecked me that he went to prison. I cried all the time. I kept in contact with him, handled his financial stuff,” Slater said of Lewis. “He did the full time. There was no good time [time off for good behavior]. He done it all. So when you see all these things that people say about him, you should know that he served his time and he did his probation, all of it.”
Lewis’ criminal conviction was a “Heavy, very heavy” weight upon him, Pelkey said. “It was all boldfaced lies.”
Lewis’ prison sentence was a horror, said Slater. Lewis was beaten, stabbed and had to endure sex offender therapy all while maintaining his innocence, but their relationship resumed when he was released, she said.
“He’d come a long way, but he still acted like the father I knew,” Slater said.
Slater said she thought that Lewis, whom she described as a disabled Vietnam War veteran, worked briefly as a security guard before he met her mother, who then owned Kathy’s Country Kitchen on Main Street in Lincoln.
She described Lewis as a kind, ebullient and patient man who won her over, ironically enough, by not trying to be her father.
“Once I told him, ‘I don’t really have a father that is in my life fulltime so I am not about to let someone else in who is trying to be that,’ ” Slater said. “He said, ‘Well, I am not trying to be. I am not going to pressure you into trying to like me, but if you do, that would be good.’ ”
Slater said she kept in daily to weekly contact with Lewis from the end of his relationship with her mother, circa 2000, until his death. Their last conversation came on March 5. Lewis said he was having leg pain, feeling run down, and he vented bitter words about King and Lynda Dube, who married King on March 1 and fled the U-Haul truck shortly before King shot himself.
“He said that weird things were going on, that he always felt like someone was out to get him,” Slater said. “He said that Bruce and the woman fought all the time.”
Slater didn’t know precisely how King and Lewis met but said that King moved in to help out Lewis, who was ailing.
“He said that a friend was moving in to help him out for the winter,” Slater said. “He said, ‘He is an all-right guy.’ I always told him, ‘You need to watch out who you let into your house.’ ”
To reach a sexual assault advocate, call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 800-871-7741, TTY 888-458-5599. This free and confidential 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine. Calls are automatically routed to the closest sexual violence service provider.