‘He Was Big & I Was Small’

by Bruce McEwen, March 14, 2012

The trial of accused Albion child molester Richard Kruse is finally getting underway after many delays and attorney changes. It's not looking good for Kruse who stoutly maintains his innocence.

But another of his alleged victims has come forward to testify that Kruse molested her 34 years ago when she was 7. A former Albion resident, Ms. Peterson, is now 41 and currently resides in Hawaii and New Zealand.

The details of her molestation were similar to the more current cases Kruse has been charged with, such as taking her out on his boat, Ketchum, (sic) and putting away as keepsakes  baby  teeth  and clippings of hair taken from her and his other alleged victims.

Kruse, who worked out of his home as a car mechanic, had maintained a water skiing team for young girls only, setting himself up as something of a one-man girl scout troop under whose auspices he took young girls on campouts and swimming trips. One would have thought for the sake of appearances that Kruse would have included a token boy or two on these adventures, but a boy probably wouldn't have been interested in shopping with Kruse for girls underwear and swimsuits. Kruse frequently had the girls stay overnight at the house on Albion Ridge he shared with his wife, Debbie. Mrs. Kruse remains steadfast in her conviction that her husband is innocent.

The Kruses have lived in Albion for many years, locating there when the Albion-Little River area was something of a perv magnet. The hall of famer cho-mo Luis 'Tree Frog' Johnson and other less well known pedophiles, including, it seems, Mr. Kruse, preyed on unsupervised hippie children for many years. Frog never was arrested in Mendocino County although he was known by the Anderson Valley hippies to be a child predator. But the Boonville hippies, rather than go to the Blue Meanies, “shunned” Mr. Frog, shunning him clear out to Albion where he continued to prey on haphazardly attended children before the Albion hippies shunned him to San Francisco where he was eventually arrested and put away on multiple charges including kidnap.

Public Defender Linda Thompson is representing Kruse. A number of other lawyers have attempted to take the case on but each one in turn has thrown it back on the Public Defender. An accused cho-mo seldom finds lawyers rushing to defend him.

All along, Kruse has maintained his innocence and through his wife Debbie has made several announcements that his innocence will be proved. But now that the latest accuser has come forward, Kruse, who will be 69 in May, seems poised to plea bargain, trading a lengthy prison term if he goes to trial and loses for a much shorter sentence if he agrees to plead guilty.

Ms. Thompson tried to get the new witness’s testimony excluded due to what Thompson called the “inflammatory nature of her allegations,” arguing that they would:

1.) Inflame the jury. (Count on that, Linda.)

2.) It would confuse the jury. (Doubt it. It would only prove that the guy's been at it for better than three decades.)

3.) The events this woman would describe are too remote in time. (Nope.)

4.) The nature of the allegations are not similar to the charges Kruse is facing now. (In fact they are aquatically identical.)

5.) It will take up too much time to include this new testimony. (Please.)

Prosecutor Heidi Larson effectively disagreed with all these objections and Judge Ann Moorman agreed with her, allowing the testimony to go forward for jury trial if Kruse doesn't plead out in the interim.

Ms. Thompson was also suspicious as to why Ms. Peterson waited until the eve of the trial to come forward. But it turned out that Ms. Peterson had contacted Detective Andrew Porter back in 2010.

Thompson: “So you first contacted Detective Porter in 2010?”

Ms. Peterson: “Yes.”

Thompson: “By telephone?”

Peterson: “Yes.”

“And what was that conversation about?”

“To confirm I lived in Albion as a child, but we didn’t really talk about the details.”

“But you did tell Detective Porter that Rick molested you at that time?”

“I think so.”

“But last week, on March 1st, you came into the office and talked with Ms. Larson. Why didn’t you talk to Detective Porter then?”

“I was upset that he had recorded our earlier conversation without telling me.”

“Well, were you recorded last week when you talked to Ms. Larson, weren’t you?”

“Yes. But it was done with my knowledge that time. And she clarified that it was standard procedure to record conversations.”

“And at this time you provided them with a lot of the details?”

“Yes.”

“At any time before last week, did you contact law enforcement?”

“I texted Heidi.”

“I see. But when you talked to Detective Porter last week, did you tell him anything about threats made to you by Rick Kruse?”

“I believe we discussed that, yes.”

“Did you talk about Rick cutting you hair?”

“I believe I told Heidi about that.”

“Now, this was a standard bowl-cut, wasn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“And he gave you these haircuts more than once? Do you remember him putting your hair in a container?”

“I remember him having things like my hair and baby teeth in containers like Altoids boxes.”

“Who showed you that?”

“Richard Kruse did.”

(Christ Jesus spare us, and where were this kid's parents, O Lord?)

“Do you know? We're blanking out this name because he's the father of the most recent child victim. Alleged, of course.) “Did you discuss the details of this case (with this man)?”

“No.”

“But you told Detective Porter it came up, didn’t you?”

“It came up and I came forward.”

“But when you found out and wanted to come forward, you didn’t.”

“I texted Heidi about it that fall. I said I would be in the area if she needed assistance.”

“When was that?”

“Late 2010.”

“Between 2010 and last week did you ever come forward and give a full statement to law enforcement?”

“No.”

“Nothing further at this time.”

Larson: “There has been some talk about overnight trips and sleepovers at his house. Did you ever spend the night at Rick Kruse’s residence?”

“No.”

“What about threats? Did he ever verbally threaten you?”

“I can’t remember the exact words to any threats. I know I felt threatened, though. He was big and I was small, and I wanted the molestation to end and I felt threatened.”

“How small were you?”

“I don’t know. Maybe three-feet tall, I don’t remember. But it was based on size. He was displeased and made me feel afraid. He was big and I was small.”

Judge Moorman: “What did he say when you said you wanted this molestation to stop?”

Peterson: “I don’t remember what he said, but I remember feeling something bad would happen. You can threaten somebody just with body language, and I believe Rick’s way is more of the body language way. Somebody big like him storming around can be pretty threatening.”

Moorman: “So you remember being threatened by his storming around?”

“Yes. That and other things.”

“What other things?”

“One thing I remember is I had a pet chicken and it disappeared at about that time.”

“How old were you at that time?”

“Eight or nine.”

Larson: “Now, you never saw Rick Kruse take the chicken, but you knew it was connected to the relationship with Rick?”

Peterson: “Yes, I thought it was related and it made me fearful.”

Larson: “You’ve talked about Rick Kruse performing oral copulation on you, where did this take place?”

Peterson: “On his boat. He would take me out fishing and tell me this was what people did when they loved each other.”

Larson: “And you were angry with Detective Porter so you didn’t mention any of this to him?”

Peterson: “Yes.”

Larson: “And you finally agreed to talk to Detective Porter when you knew whether or not you were being recorded?”

Peterson: “Yes.”

Judge Moorman: “Ms. Peterson, what is your date of birth?”

Peterson: “August 29, 1971.”

Moorman: “You made a statement about oral copulation on a boat. What boat?”

Peterson: “Rick Kruse’s boat, Ketchum. I used to go out with him fishing. And sometimes not fishing.”

Moorman: “And you were molested on these trips?”

Peterson: “Not on every occasion, but quite frequently, yes.”

Larson: “The People maintain that although these events occurred more that 30 years earlier it is proper to allow the testimony. It involves girls of approximately the same age who were left in the care of Mr. Kruse, and during that time the conduct is similar with touching the vaginal area and digital insertion, massages, sitting on laps, the keeping of baby teeth and locks of hair — very similar to what happened with Jacy. In both cases he gave them money for their baby teeth and hair; the wording is similar when he tells Ms. Peterson she’s very sexual, just as he told X she was very sexual — strikingly similar, in fact. And the circumstances are always the same — no third party in attendance.”

Thompson: “This evidence should be kept out of the trial, your honor. I submit the nature of these charges are inflammatory, and this happened 34 years ago. It will confuse the jury and take up too much time.”

Larson: “Case law admits lapses of 30 years or more in between where the cases are so similar; it is the conduct, the pattern, that makes it admissible. It should be allowed. It will not confuse the jury or take up too much time.”

Thompson: “But your honor, we have to defend ourselves against something that happened 34 years ago. It’s hard to defend against that. Not only that, but this case is so dissimilar that it should be kept out. X wasn’t molested on the boat, and Ms. Peterson says she never stayed overnight at Rick’s residence. Also, the allegation itself is so inflammatory it makes it impossible to defend my client. And I think there’s a question as to whether these incidents ever occurred. She [Peterson] comes forward after she finds out X's family — a family she’s had a relationship with — is involved. And there is no — absolutely no — similarity between these cases. In one case the molestation takes place on the boat; in the other, it’s at the residence. And let’s look at Mr. Kruse. In the interval of 34 years did he lead a law-abiding life? Prior to this, Mr. Kruse has never — never — been accused of molestation or any sexual offense whatsoever! Then, when X comes forward in ’08, he’s not arrested until 2010. In my opinion, in light of the egregious accusations and allegations, the jury is going to want to punish him for what he did to Ms. Peterson. And I get it. I know it’s hard for women and children to come forward, I get that. But my position is my client is going to get punished for something that happened 34 years ago.”

Moorman: “I need to read over the case law cited by both counsel, and I’ll have a ruling by three this afternoon. But the court will find that as to the credibility of Ms. Peterson, she did not become overly emotional and inflammatory. Her demeanor was calm and collected as she answered questions that were plainly causing her some discomfort and reluctance.”

The next day we learned that Judge Moorman was going to allow the witness and her testimony, and as a result we expect the defense to try to either stall again, or cop a plea.

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