Cho-Mo Or Freelance Child Healer?

by Bruce McEwen, March 21, 2012

Richard F. Kruse of Albion is charged with lewd and lascivious acts with a minor child, and he’s widely suspected of having been at it for well over 34 years, a serial molester with a career spanning three generations. But according to Kruse, he’s an underpaid and underappreciated child psychologist who should have been making six figures for examining countless little hippy waifs — all of them little girls — for signs of molestation.

Having done this thankless work out of the goodness of his enormous heart for so long, Kruse is outraged at having been repaid with the insult of being slapped with formal charges of child molest. His base of support includes three persons, his wife Debbie, and one staunch Albion friend, Captain Fathom, and his lawyer, Public Defender Linda Thompson, who at least has to pretend the guy is innocent because she's paid to believe that.

Picking a jury for the portly Rick Kruse took some time.

Arriving at the County Courthouse at 10:30, the weapons and contraband detector at the back door had already admitted 459 persons, presumed to be unarmed, excepting law enforcement personnel, and the regular staff of perhaps 179. The main entrance would have a similar number. The jury pool must have been at flood-stage.

Whatever the head county, the courtroom was filled and culled several times before 14 fair and impartial candidates were discovered who were fit to serve as jurors.

Perhaps as many as 78% of the potential jurors had child molestation issues which were far too extensive and repercussive in their lives to serve as jurors in the case of defendant Richard Kruse. If that statistic approaches reality, this country is a lot sicker than anybody thought.

Recruiting a lynch mob for Kruse would have been quick and easy work.

Many fine folks felt the trouble of going to trial was unnecessarily formal and prohibitively expensive, when all they really needed was a length of rope and a handy branch. One fellow, who seemed to consider capital punishment far too barbarous and primitive for his progressive sensitivities, thought Mr. Kruse should be castrated forthwith.

Judge Ann Moorman said, “Juror Number Four: You put in the questionnaire last week the comment that anyone charged with such a crime as this should be castrated. Do you still actually feel that way?”

“Yes’um, I do. That’s just what I think.”

Judge Moorman turned to smile at the two lawyers trying the case and asked:

“Does counsel stipulate?”

“We do, your honor,” they sang in unison.

“Juror Number Four, you’re excused. Thanks for coming.”

The court then excused a woman who suggested even more extensive mutilation would be appropriate. Then those who favored lynching were let go.

“Thanks for coming.”

The idea that a child of six or seven could — or would — make this stuff up was simply too much to ask most Mendolanders to contemplate. Even people from Project Sanctuary and Child Protective Services, professionals who know very well that little kids can be, and often were, great big storytellers — even they were considered by the judge and lawyers to be too biased to serve on this kind of jury.

Mostly, it was Public Defender Linda Thompson who asked over and over again, the same question: “Do you believe kids lie?”

“They don’t exactly lie,” one potential juror said. “They’re just confused.” Her hands were trembling and her voice breaking, as she tried to explain.

“Take a deep breath,” Judge Ann Moorman advised, as the young juror broke into strangled sobs.

But the Public Defender had heard enough, already. As soon as the woman composed herself, Ms. Thompson thanked and excused her.

Another woman, this one with some training in child psychology (also rejected) explained to this reporter that child molestation cases are fraught with hazard. Children can be influenced to testify any which way. It was on this issue that the trial stalled-out last week. But to illustrate the problem, the rejected juror related The Parable of the Rogue Mouse:

“What’s your favorite ice cream?”

“Choc!”

“Me too! Choc!”

“Can you spell cat?”

“Yep.”

“Who’s your Mommy and Daddy?”

“Well, there’s Momma and …um, Paul?”

“And who do you like best?”

“George Bush!”

“Oh?”

“No, just kidding. I like President Clinton, he’s the best — honest!”

“OK. But have you ever been bitten by a mouse?”

“Nope.”

“And are you quite sure, then?

“Yep.”

Next week, the kids came back to answer the same questions. “Did you ever get bit by a mouse?”

Nearly half thought they had. Others seemed less sure than they had been the first week. By the third week, nearly every kid said the mouse had attacked him or her.

By late morning last Tuesday the final jury panel was in place and the first witness was called.

Deputy DA Heidi Larson began the direct examination of a now-11-year-old victim-witness who came to the stand with her mother seated directly behind her to steady the child.

Larson: “How do you know Rick Kruse?”

Jane Doe: “I used to go to his house after school.”

Larson: “How did you meet him?”

Jane Doe: “I don’t remember.”

Larson: “But he used to baby-sit you after school?”

Jane Doe: “Yes.”

Larson: “How many days a week did you go to his house after school?”

Jane Doe: “I don’t know.”

Larson: “How would you get to his house?”

Jane Doe: “On the bus. Or sometimes he would pick me up at school.”

Larson: “When Rick was watching you, did something happen?”

Jane: “I don’t know what you mean.”

Larson: “I’m referring to the — how should I put this? — to the reason all this came about. Did something happen when Rick Kruse was watching you after school that was bad?”

Jane: “You mean him touching me?”

Larson: “Yes. Where did he touch you?”

Jane: “My private parts.”

Larson: “And what do you mean by that? What private parts did he touch?”

Jane: “My vagina.”

Larson: “Where were you when this touching happened?”

Jane: “On his couch.”

Larson: “Were you wearing clothes?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Larson: “Did he touch you over your clothes or under them?”

Jane: “Both.”

Larson: “How?”

Jane: “He put his hand under.”

Larson: “Under what?”

Jane: “Under my clothes and underwear.”

Larson: “Now, when he touched your vagina did his hand go in, inside your body or not?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Larson: “Yes, what?”

Jane: “In.”

Larson: “What part of his hand went in your body?”

Jane: “Finger.”

Larson: “What other parts of your body did Rick Kruse touch?”

Jane: “Chest. Legs.”

If the reader supposes the kid is being flip with these terse answers, when she finally got out from under the burning gaze of all these severe, cold, aloof, scrutinizing, nicely dressed strangers asking all these highly personal and acutely compromising questions, the moment she got out into the hall, she burst into great heaving sobs. Keep in mind her cross exam hadn’t even started. Long-time readers may remember the last child of this age-group was cross examined. That kid was the only eyewitness to a murder. He was called a liar every time he opened his mouth, but the jury believed every word he said. So we have to pause to wonder if Kruse is committing a second crime is being committed here: Is he going through this trial in order to retaliate on his victim for turning him in like he threatened her that he would?

Larson: “And you were what — six? seven? — at this time?”

Jane: “Yes. Second grade.”

Larson: “Now, the first time this happened, what time of year was it?”

Jane: “I don’t know. I’m not that great with dates…”

Larson: “Well, was it before or after Christmas?”

Jane: “I don’t know.”

Larson: “How many times did it happen?”

Jane: “A lot.”

Larson: “Was anyone else ever in the room when this happened?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Larson: “Who?”

Jane: “My friend, C.”

Larson: “Was C. there when Rick Kruse touched your vagina?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Larson: “Do you remember what time of year it was?”

Jane: “No.”

Larson: “Did you ever ask Rick Kruse not to touch you?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Larson: “You asked him not to?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Larson: “Did he ever say anything threatening to you?”

Jane: “Yes, not to tell anyone.”

Larson: “Did you ever tell anyone?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Larson: “Who?”

Jane: “My parents.”

Larson: “Why?”

Jane: “I was scared.”

Larson: “Do you remember talking to Cynthia Silva for years ago about this?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Larson: “Then two years ago, you talked to Detective Porter about it?”

Jane: “Yes, I think so.”

Larson: “It’s hard to remember?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Larson: “How do you feel sitting here today?”

Jane: “Scared.”

Larson: “Is it hard to tell your story?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Larson: “And are you telling us the truth?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Public Defender Thompson began her cross.

Thompson: “Do you remember why you first went to talk to Cynthia Silva at Child Protective Services?”

Jane: “Because a lady said I had to.”

Thompson: “Who did you go with?”

Jane: “My parents.”

Thompson: “And you were familiar with the room because you’d been there before, hadn’t you?”

Jane: “No.”

Thompson: “But hadn’t you been there before? The first time?”

Ms. Thompson said earlier that Jane had accused her grandfather of molesting her when she was much younger than six.

Jane: “I don’t remember.”

Thompson: “So the only time you remember talking to Cynthia Silva was about Rick Kruse?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Thompson: “Why?”

Jane: “What Rick did to me.”

Thompson: “Do you remember saying Rick Kruse hurt you?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Thompson: “Did you tell her why you were going to Rick’s house?”

Jane: “I don’t remember.”

Thompson: “Did your parents ask him to watch you?”

Jane: “I don’t remember.”

Thompson: “Remember the first time you stayed there?”

Jane: “No.”

Thompson: “But you stayed there once, twice a week, sometimes more?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Thompson: “What days of the week did you go there?”

Jane: “I don’t remember.”

Thompson: “Do you remember if the first time was the first week of school?”

Jane: “I don’t think so.”

Thompson: “Was it before Halloween?”

Jane: “I don’t remember.”

Thompson: “Was it before Thanksgiving?”

Jane: “I don’t remember.”

Thompson: “You just remember it was when you were seven. And you don’t remember the first time. Do you recall what the first touching was?”

Jane: “Legs.”

Thompson: “Did you have your clothes on?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Thompson: “How did he go about it?”

Jane: “Lifting up my pants.”

Thompson: “Did you tell Rick you didn’t like that?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Thompson: “Did you go back again that same week?”

Jane: “I don’t remember.”

Thompson: “Now, you told Ms. Larson that this happened every time?”

Jane: “No.”

Thompson: “But it happened a lot?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Thompson: “You also indicated you were afraid. Why?”

Jane: “Cause he told me he was going to hurt me if I told anybody.”

Thompson: “He used those words?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Thompson: “Did you tell Cynthia Silva that he threatened you?”

Jane: “I don’t remember.”

Thompson: “Did Cynthia Silva tell you could get in trouble if you lied?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Thompson: “And when you talked to Detective Porter, you told him the truth as well?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Thompson: “Do you remember telling him that Rick touched your buttocks?”

Jane: “I don’t remember.”

Thompson: “Do you remember telling Detective Porter he did not touch those parts?”

Jane: “I don’t remember.”

Thompson: “When you talked to Cynthia Silva and Detective Porter, did you draw some pictures?”

Jane: “I think so.”

Thompson showed Jane some pictures: “Do you remember this?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Thompson: “Did you draw it?”

Jane: “I don’t remember.”

Thompson: “Is that your name?”

Jane: “Yes.”

Thompson: “Is that your handwriting?”

Jane: “I don’t know.”

Thompson: “It doesn’t look to be in your handwriting?”

Jane: “No.”

Thompson kept pestering her about the handwriting. It didn’t seem to occur to the Public Defender that a child’s handwriting would improve between the ages of six and 11, and that she might not recognize the earlier form. Judge Moorman, in a less grating and accusatory tone, tried to help, but Jane still didn’t remember signing off on the drawings, and Ms. Thompson’s coup fell flat. Judge Moorman told Ms. Thompson to move on. She went back to trying to pin down the dates, and again, Jane didn’t remember.

Ms. Larson, on redirect: “Do you think about what Rick did to you every day?”

Jane: “No.”

Ms. Larson seemed lost. This is not, apparently, the answer she hoped for. The prosecutor tried again: “When did you find out you would have to come here today?”

Jane: “Last week, I think.”

Larson: “How did that make you feel?”

Jane: “Scared.”

Larson: “Do you want to talk about any of this?”

Jane: “No.”

Larson: “Then why did you come here today?”

Jane: “To put him in jail.”

Larson: “Why?”

Jane: “He did something wrong.”

Larson: “Who did he do something wrong to?”

Jane: “Me.”

That finished up the first day, but Ms. Thompson refused to allow the witness to be completely excused — Rick Kruse apparently wants to call her back for more punishment later in the trial.

The next day went poorly. There were technical problems with the CD and DVD equipment. The interviews conducted at the jail were played, showing Kruse, in the first one, denying he ever touched the child. Then there was a second interview, a couple of weeks later; this one requested by defendant Kruse, and in this taped interview, Kruse admitted to some touching. He explained to the officer in the interview that he was just trying to help Jane and a second victim because their parents had asked him to evaluate them to see if they had been molested.

The officer conducting the interview asked Kruse if he had any qualifications for this kind of thing. Kruse admitted he didn’t, but then went on to say he would be rich by now if he had had some kind of degree so he could charge “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Mrs. Debbie Kruse was arrested last Friday, 16 March, on a complaint of witness intimidation. Her bail was set at $25,000, but Mrs. Kruse, who is working as an in-home caregiver, quickly bailed out. She said Monday night that she was “trying to explain to someone that Rick would never kidnap and kill a pet chicken.” Mrs. Kruse also said her husband's trial was going “swimmingly.”

Monday's testimony featured a 12-year-old girl, a friend of Jane's, who testified that she didn't see Kruse touch Jane sexually nor had Kruse sexually molested her. The rest of the day's testimony involved the accuracy of childhood memories. Closing arguments were presented Tuesday.

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