ROCKLAND, Maine — A Knox County jury deliberated for about four hours Wednesday afternoon before convicting a 45-year-old Rockport man on all counts of sexually assaulting a young girl numerous times over three years.
Erik L. Vultee, 45, of Rockport was convicted of 10 counts of unlawful sexual contact, as well as single counts of attempted gross sexual assault, visual aggression against a child, sexual misconduct with a child and unlawful sexual touching.
Justice Jeffrey Hjelm ordered Vultee held without bail until a sentencing hearing is held, likely in mid-July.
Vultee faces up to 30 years in prison for the most serious unlawful sexual contact charge, District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said after the verdict. The prosecutor said he has not yet decided what he will recommend for a sentence for all the offenses.
According to Rushlau, the offenses occurred from 2009 through 2011 at Vultee’s home, where Vultee was watching the child for the girl’s mother. The girl, who was 8 when she said the assaults started, reported the abuse in 2012 to a family friend.
The girl said Vultee would call her upstairs to his bedroom, show pornographic movies and then ask her to undress.
“She spoke the truth,” Rushlau said during closing arguments, referring to the now 13-year-old girl’s testimony.
The girl’s mother testified about how she went to play bingo with Vultee’s wife Thursday nights, and Erik Vultee would watch the young girl and on occasion the victim’s older sister. The prosecutor reminded the jurors the young girl did not want to go back there at times. The older sister testified Vultee would call to the younger child and tell her to come upstairs to his bedroom, supposedly to watch Scooby-Doo movies, Rushlau said. When the girl hesitated, Vultee would get stern, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Steven Peterson told jurors in his closing statements the girl’s story was simply not true. He suggested the girl told a story that simply got out of hand. He also said the girl may have made up the story after a friend of her mother told the girl her children had been molested by a family member.
Or, Peterson said, the seeds to her story could have come from the mother, who had a falling out with Vultee’s wife.
The defendant’s wife, Robin Vultee, testified Tuesday that the victim did not stay over at the house while she and the victim’s mother went to bingo. She denied telling the state police detective investigating the case that she and the victim’s mother went to bingo together on a regular basis. Robin Vultee said the girl only came over a couple times for cookouts when the entire family was there, and Erik Vultee was never alone with the child.
Robin Vultee also said the girl’s mother was jealous that she and her husband came into a lot of money after Eric Vultee’s father died in 2012.
Erik Vultee did not testify.
Robin Vultee’s daughter Danielle Ward also testified for the defense Tuesday. Ward said she lived at the house during the time the victim said the abuse occurred and told jurors the girl did not visit the house regularly and that Eric Vultee was not alone with the girl when she did visit. Ward said the girl would play with her children.
Under cross examination by prosecutor Rushlau, Ward admitted she had been convicted in 2011 in the same courtroom for unsworn falsification and making a false public alarm or report. She was fined a total of $800 for those two convictions.
The two women also said there was no lock on the bedroom door, as the victim claimed was the case when the assaults occurred. Photographs taken by state police in July 2012 show a lock, but Robin Vultee said it had only recently been installed because she and Eric Vultee wanted to protect medications kept in the bedroom following a car crash.
Rushlau questioned Robin Vultee on her time frame concerning the lock, pointing out Eric Vultee had been in the car crash in April 2009, not in 2012. She insisted, however, the lock was not put on the bedroom door until April 2012.
The girl said she finally disclosed what had happened in 2012 after she saw Vultee with one of her younger cousins and did not want anything to happen to her.
Vultee was arrested in December 2012 but had been free on bail since shortly after his arrest, making this one of the older open cases in Knox County.