The names of the child victim and her family will not appear in this story, but they were heard loud and clear in the County Courthouse last week during the preliminary hearing for Richard Kruse on charges that he serially molested a six-year-old girl.
The courtroom was pretty quiet for such inflammatory talk. Hardly anyone had come to hear the evidence against Kruse, the alleged Albion child molester. When he was arrested late last summer everyone was talking, and friends and neighbors had turned up in court in loose support of the man, a long-time resident of Albion. But the circle of support soon shrunk into wait and see as pieces of the case against Kruse got into general circulation, including his many hours of volunteer work as founder of a Lake Mendocino Water Ski Club.
Girls only, and the younger the better.
At which point, in any other place in the whole wide world, major perv alerts would have been issued.
Wherever there are unsupervised children there are child molesters, and Albion, not to mention greater Mendocino County, in Mendo's hippie heyday was a pervert's paradise of unsupervised children. Mendocino County's yesteryear pervs are now Senior Citizens, as is Kruse, but the morbid scholars who study these things tell us the molesters never stop unless they're stopped.
The infamous Tree Frog Johnson, having spent several years molesting feral counterculture children in the Anderson Valley, eventually re-located to Albion, while another pervert who lent his predatory services to a hippie enterprise called the Whale School, a photographer who would become active with Earth First! simply paid off his victim's mother to spare himself prosecution.
This place has a perv-friendly history, you could say.
And Kruse has lived in Albion for many years. His home was always open to stray kids, especially little girls.
These days, Kruse is down to two supporters — his wife and Captain Fathom, a long-time neighbor but even Fathom wasn't in court for Kruse's preliminary hearing last week. Only the frazzled-looking Mrs. Kruse and two reporters were present. For all the earlier appearances for such things as appointment of lawyers, entering of pleas, and setting the hearing dates, Fathom and other "concerned citizens" were always in the room, with the noisy Cap’n repeating himself loudly and frequently to anyone he could get to listen that Rick Kruse is a good guy and little girls are big storytellers.
Deputy DA Heidi Larson called only one witness for the preliminary hearing: Detective Andy Porter.
The Kruse defense called no one.
The story was test book pedophilia: The man hosts unrelated young girls, some of them as young as six, at sleepovers at his house. He takes the girls on camping trips where the "special ones" get to sleep in his tent. Uncle Wunkle Wicky even takes the girl children shopping for underwear and swimsuits.
The girls, all of them being raised by harried, under-funded single women, had to have swimsuits to participate in Uncle Wunkle's all-female water ski club at Lake Mendocino.
Kruse, now approaching his seventh decade, not only got over for many years with his commitment to little girls, and this being Mendocino County where Doing Your Own Thing got taken to its inevitable conclusions — he was also celebrated for his devotion in newspaper puff pieces and letters of gratitude from the mothers of his victims, all the testimonials collected in a scrapbook by Mrs. Kruse who brandishes it as evidence of her husband's altruism.
Detective Porter was assigned to the victim.
Porter's interview with this one child was all that was needed to establish the probability that Rick Kruse had molested the second-grader (at the time), and that he had violated the child as many as 20 times in 2007.
How many over the years in Albion?
We understand they've begun to come forward.
The first order of business was to lay some foundation, such as when was the girl born. October 29th, 2000. How did she know Mr. Kruse? Kruse invited her on camping trips, swimming and water-ski outings, sleepovers at the Kruse house. When was she interviewed? August 21, 2010, at the Fort Bragg sub-station.
Deputy DA Larson: “Did she know the difference between the truth and telling a lie?”
Detective Porter: “She did, yes.”
Larson: “How do you know that?”
Porter: “I asked her some questions like, If I said the wall was pink or yellow, would that be the truth or a lie, and she knew the difference.”
Larson: “Did she understand female anatomy?”
Porter: “Yes, she did.”
Larson: “How do you know that?”
Porter: “I used a drawing, a diagram of a female form and asked her to draw a circle around what she understood to be the private parts.”
Larson: “Did she have names for these private parts?”
Porter: “She did. She called them the ‘nips,’ ‘butt’ and ‘vagina’.”
Larson: “Could she identify the private parts of a male?”
Porter: “Yes. She called them the ‘butt’ and ‘penis’.”
Larson: “Were there other children on these camping trips?”
Porter: “Yes, she said there were.”
Larson: “And where did she sleep?”
Porter: “In a tent with Mr. Kruse.”
Larson: “Did she mention going anywhere else with Mr. Kruse?”
Porter: “Yes. To a swimming pool in Fort Bragg at the Trade Winds motel. Nine or ten times. He picked her up at school in a limousine and took her to the motel.”
(The mind reels.)
Larson: “Ever take her shopping?”
Porter: “Yes, she said he did. For a swimming suit in Ukiah on one occasion.”
Larson: “And she stayed at Mr. Kruse’s house?”
Porter: “Yes, at least 20 times.”
Larson: “Were others present?”
Porter: “Sometimes. His wife was there sometimes. Sometimes, the girl's friends were there.”
Larson: “What would they do?”
Porter: “Watch movies. Children’s movies.”
(Only the most dedicated perv would sit through The Little Mermaid more than once.)
Larson: “Did you ask her if anything happened?”
Porter: “Yes, I asked if he touched her, and she said he did; he placed her hand on her vagina.”
Larson: “Was she wearing clothes?”
Porter: “She said he touched her both over and under her clothes.”
Larson: “Did she describe how he touched her?”
Porter: “Yes, she put her hand on the table and rubbed it in a circular motion, saying ‘like that.’ She also told me that one time Mr. Kruse asked her to rub his penis. He told her not to tell anyone, and that he would hurt her if she did. And at least one time he gave her money. I had to specifically ask if his fingers ever went into her vagina and she said they did.”
Larson: “Did she say how many times this happened?”
Porter: “My recollection is that it was about two times a week.”
Larson: “Did she say if he ever touched her private parts with his mouth?”
Porter: “Yes, and she said he did.”
Larson: “Did you ask her if she was telling the truth?”
Porter: “Yes, and she said she was.”
Larson: “Did you ever talk to her mother about this?”
Porter: “Yes. She said her daughter came home one time with $80 Mr. Kruse had given her.”
Detective Porter interviewed Kruse on September 4th, 2010. Kruse told the detective that he had given the six-year-old $80 to clean his house.
Larson: “Did you appraise him of the allegations and advise him of his Miranda rights?”
Porter: “Yes, I did.”
Larson: “Did he indicate to you how he came to know her?”
Porter: “He said she came into his life as a heavily molested girl.”
Ms. Larson has prosecuted many child molesters. She wanted to follow up on Mr. Kruse’s self-alleged expertise. “What,” she asked, “were his exact words?”
Porter: “He said he had ‘assessed her as a heavily molested child’.”
Larson: “And did he tell you how he knew that?”
Porter: “He said he could tell ‘by the way she acts’.”
Larson: “And did he tell you he knew who had molested her?”
Porter: “Yes, her older brother.”
Larson: “And how old was he?”
Larson nodded knowingly and paced a moment with a rueful expression on her face. She all but said, “Ah ha. A textbook case!” Instead she said, “And did Mr. Kruse tend to go off track, to change the subject?”
Porter: “That he did. He would get started about his water-ski team, and all the good work he was doing.”
Larson: “And when you got him back on track again what did he have to say for himself?”
Porter: “He said the girl had invited him to molest her, took him into the bathroom and placed his hand on her vagina.”
Larson: “And did you ask why he went along with her?”
Porter: “Yes, I did. He said he wanted to see how far she would go; he wanted to ‘assess’ her.”
Mr. Kruse, Porter said, had gone on to describe his victim as “very sexual.”
Kruse was sitting calmly at the defense table in his red "cho-mo" jailhouse jumpsuit. He seemed unperturbed. With him was his lawyer, a Mr. Connolly of Lake County.
Larson: “Did you ever confront Mr. Kruse with the allegations of touching her vagina?”
Porter: “I did. He said it never happened.”
Kruse tells the detective that child had placed his hand on her, then he turns around and says it never happened.
Larson: “What did you say to that?”
Porter: “I advised him I had a problem with his testimony.”
Larson: “Did you ask him about rubbing her back and French kissing her?”
Porter: “Yes, and he said she wanted to do it to him.”
Larson: “Did you ever talk to the child's father about this?”
Porter: “I did, and he was aghast, outraged.”
Larson: “But didn’t Mr. Kruse say that the girl had been molested by her brother, and that Mr. Hendricks had sat back and watched?”
Porter: “That’s right; that is what Kruse said the girl had told him.”
Larson: “And did you tell this to her father?”
Porter: “I did, and again he was outraged.”
A search of Kruse’s Albion residence revealed a lock of the child's hair that Kruse kept in a small metal box. He also had numerous photos of children, although he has none of his own.
Kruse's lawyer's cross-examination was so inept, so halting, so obviously unprepared that Judge Henderson had to ask Connolly to pick up the pace, that he was taking too long between questions. Never mind that the questions were to little or no point.
Connolly: “Uhh… the purpose of a police report is what — for prosecution?”
Porter: “It’s to be used for prosecution, yes.”
Connolly: “And it’s supposed to be neutral?”
Connolly: “Any inaccuracies in this report?”
Porter: “Not that I’m aware of.”
Connolly, after a long pause while he looked through some pages of, presumably, Porter's investigation, “Now, you testified that Mr. Kruse first started taking her on camping trips in ’06?”
Porter: “Yes, that’s right.”
Connolly after another long pause, “That’s about a year and a half, is it not?”
Porter: “Yes, that’s right.”
Connolly, pausing so long I thought he'd fallen asleep, “Now, she had denied that Kruse had purchased underwear for her, hadn’t she?”
Porter: “I don’t recall, may I refer to my report?”
Connolly: “I believe it’s on page 49.”
After a long search through the pages, the answer is still in doubt. Finally, the lawyer brought his copy to Porter and Porter agreed that’s what was said: The girl didn’t remember Kruse buying her underwear, just the swimsuit.
Connolly, after yet another narcoleptic interval, said, “Now, you testified as to the swimming lessons…”
Porter: “I don’t believe I said that. I said he took her swimming at the Trade Winds motel.”
Connolly: “Did she ever mention being touched during these swimming trips?”
Porter: “No, not that I recall.”
Connolly, after another interminable lapse in his interrogatory, “…now, as for these visits to Mr. Kruse’s house, do you remember the sleeping arrangements? She was sleeping in the living room, wasn’t she?”
Porter: “I believe so, yes.”
Connolly: “And there were two couches?”
Porter: “That sounds about right.”
Connolly: “So she was on one and her friend on the other?”
Porter: “At which time?”
Connolly, 90 seconds later, “Did you ever ask Rich Kruse whether he gave her any money?”
Porter: “I don’t recall asking him specifically, no.”
Connolly: “Now, as to her mother, when she said he gave her money…”
Larson: “Objection, this is hearsay.”
Judge: “Rephrase your question, counsel, and I’ll allow it.”
Connolly: “Her mother elicited facts regarding the $80…”
Porter: “She told me that he gave her the money for cleaning the house.”
Connolly: “…now regarding the touching, she says on the transcript right here, right here and right here…”
Porter: “She was pointing to the places she’d circled on the diagram, indicating where he’d touched her.”
Connolly asked some muddled questions that immediately backfired on him, one of which elicited from Detective Porter the depressing information that the little girl had asked Kruse not to put his fingers inside her. Connolly had apparently hoped to make the psychotic point that a six-year-old child was otherwise willing to go along with her violation.
Connolly was pawing desperately through his notes when Judge Henderson spoke up.
“Mr. Connolly, I’m going to have to ask you to pick up the pace a little bit. You’re taking too long between questions.”
Connolly said he in fact had no more questions. He asked that Count II, which dealt with penetration, “not be granted.”
Ms. Larson said The People believed that penetration had happened at least 20 times, and Judge Henderson agreed. He ordered Kruse bound over for trial on Count I, lewd and lascivious acts with a minor and Count II, sexual acts with a child, as well as the special allegation that the sexual acts constituted penetration.
Connolly wanted to delay trial. But Ms. Larson said she’d spoken to her boss, DA David Eyster, and Eyster had said he would not waive any more time, that this guy was going to court as there was space on the court calendar.
Kruse is lucky to be an American. If he were Chinese he'd already have been taken down to the Courthouse basement for a quick bullet to the back of his evil head.