Town police failed to arrest man who confessed to raping girl in ‘77, lawsuit claims

The Edward T. Gignoux U.S. Courthouse building in Portland as seen in this March 20, 2018, BDN file photo. (Seth Koenig | BDN)

KITTERY (BDN) -- A New York woman is suing Kittery for $62 million, claiming town police botched the investigation of her rape as a child in the 1970s.

Last week, Kathleen Kristiansen filed a federal lawsuit against the southern Maine town, its police department, and five current and former officers alleging that they failed to arrest and charge a 31-year-old man after he confessed to raping her in 1977.

Kristiansen, now 55, wrote in the court complaint that she was 13 years old when the man raped her at his Government Street apartment and then, after she escaped, chased her with a knife. It was the beginning, she said in an interview, of a lifetime of stalking and harassment by the man, who she asked not be named out of ongoing concern over what he might do.

The Kittery police had the opportunity to prevent this, Kristiansen claims in the suit, on March 24, 1978, when two officers “took a written statement [of the man] confessing” but failed to arrest him or turn the confession over to the York County District Attorney.

Kittery Town Manager Kendra Amaral declined, through an employee, to comment on the suit.

Kristiansen, who is representing herself, said she only learned about the alleged confession in 2011 but has since obtained a copy. She declined to provide the document, saying that sharing evidence before it is filed in court “would diminish the integrity of the case.”

“I have everything,” she told the Bangor Daily News. “I have copies of their reports. I have copies of the confession.”

The BDN does not usually name survivors of sexual violence, but Kristiansen said she is proud to have made her identity public by filing the suit in the U.S. District Court in Portland. “I think it takes a lot of courage to stand up for myself, and I am proud of that, as is my family,” she said.

Kristiansen said in the suit that she tried again to report the rape to Kittery police in 2002 and 2011, when she gave detailed written and verbal statements about what happened. Doing so put her through “emotional turmoil,” but police only sent some of the evidence to prosecutors, Kristiansen said.

She said she’s never understood why police didn’t arrest the man after he confessed and remains confused by their more recent approach to the case.

Kristiansen said she obtained the confession and other records through a motion requesting evidence on file in her case with a York County court. Although she declined to share these records, her history of harassment by the alleged rapist is a matter of public record.

The stalking has forced her to move several times, Kristiansen said. Last year, the New Hampshire Supreme Court extended a protection order she has against the man for another year, after he tried to appeal it.

The ruling references earlier protection orders and upheld a lower court’s finding that the man “presents a real, credible and serious threat to [Kristiansen’s] personal safety.” It also notes that Kristiansen testified that he “sexually assaulted” her in 1977.

Kristiansen says that the Kittery Police Department’s handling of her case denied her equal protection under the law. The sum she is seeking in relief represents $1 million a year for the “past 42 years of torment” and the next 20 years of her life, Kristiansen said.

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