2015-04-17 / Front Page

Man has guilt, PTSD after abuse

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

Richard “Rick” Alexander and his wife Deborah stand in the entryway of their South Portland home days after Alexander renewed his complaints, first made to the Maine Attorney General’s Office in 2002, that he was sexually abused as a boy the 1970s by a Biddeford police officer. (Duke Harrington photo) Richard “Rick” Alexander and his wife Deborah stand in the entryway of their South Portland home days after Alexander renewed his complaints, first made to the Maine Attorney General’s Office in 2002, that he was sexually abused as a boy the 1970s by a Biddeford police officer. (Duke Harrington photo) SOUTH PORTLAND — When Richard “Rick” Alexander was a young boy growing up on Beauford Street in South Portland in the 1970s, he dreamed of one day becoming a pilot, or better yet, an astronaut. Or, being a voracious reader of the New England maritime histories of Edward Snow Rowe – he imagined going into academia and becoming a historian himself.

But that never happened. Instead Alexander, now 52, dropped out of high school in his senior year. He ended up slogging through a series of menial jobs — hard labor mostly, often at two or three places simultaneously. By his count, Alexander has held 45 different jobs in his lifetime.

And the reason his dreams went unfulfilled, the reason he felt he had to work so hard all his life not at self-actualization, but just to keep his mind distracted, can be directly traced to a 25-year member of the Biddeford Police Department, a man who Alexander claims sexually abused him on a routine basis.

“Let’s call it what it was, it was rape,” said Alexander, on April 10. Within the past month, two other men have also come forward with claims of sexual abuse against this retired police officer, Stephen M. Dodd, who is believed to live in Florida.

“He liked to use his handcuffs on me,” Alexander recalled in details that remain almost too vivid for him to bear. “He’d have me cuffed and he’d pull my pants down and he’d shove my head into the ground and hold it there while he beat me and sodomized me, while he was in his uniform, wearing a gun for the public’s safety.

“To this day, when I smell fresh cut grass in the spring, that’s what I think of, getting sodomized, with my head held to the ground and my hands tied behind me,” said Alexander, quietly.

Also to this day, Alexander said he keeps a handcuff key on him just in case, even though he has not seen Dodd since 1978. Alexander also remains a fanatic about keeping any entrance to his house locked at all times, walking a patrol of all doors and windows every night, with a baseball bat by each door, just in case. It’s a routine that almost seems like an obsessivecompulsive disorder, his wife Deborah said.

“Yeah,” Alexander said with a shrug. “Basically, I deal with a really bad post traumatic stress disorder. This is a heavy burden I’ve been carrying on my back for 40 years.”

Alexander is the most recent, and perhaps the first of Dodd’s accusers to speak out. He first came forward in 2002 in a pair of sworn depositions given to a detective in the office of the Maine Attorney General, his willingness to confront what he calls “the ghouls inside my head” triggered by stories then in the news about the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal.

Alexander provided to the Courier a copy of AG documents regarding his case.

Married for 10 years at the time, with two young children, Alexander opened the floodgates at a stoplight one day to his wife, unable to keep the secret he’d only previously revealed to his mother. But she had refused to believe her son’s allegations against the young public servant who lived six houses down from the Alexanders’, on Fessenden Avenue. Far from protecting him, Alexander said, his mother actually tried to pass him off on Dodd as a potential father figure, given that Alexander’s father was so often absent from home due to military duty.

Alexander had known Dodd from a young age and always as an authority figure, from the time he attended Brown Elementary School while Dodd was a crossing guard. Dodd later became a volunteer firefighter, then a reserve police officer in Old Orchard Beach and finally, a full-time cop in Biddeford. Because Dodd often watched houses and did odd jobs for neighbors, he had keys and access to many homes and secluded backyards in the neighborhood, Alexander said.

“This guy could just walk in, molest you and walk right out again,” Alexander said, noting that a cousin’s house, located between the Alexander and Dodd homes, was a favorite rape spot. So, too, was the old E Street Fire Station used by the Knightville Volunteer Call Company, to which Dodd is said to have belonged.

Twice, Alexander said Dodd came to his home on some pretext about needing help moving files at the firehouse. Needing Alexander’s help with a neighborhood chore or good deed was a favorite tactic of Dodd’s, Alexander said, because his mother would always make him go, Dodd being “such a good young man.”

But once in the firehouse, there were no files to move.

“He tied me town and raped me there for an hour and a half one time,” Alexander said.

As Alexander got older, and Dodd graduated from firefighter to police officer, bribes would often become the excuse to get the young boy alone. Dodd was not above making use of his position to get what he wanted, Alexander said, recalling alcohol, marijuana and fireworks confiscated by the young reserve officer in the course of his duties, then dealt out of the trunk of his green Plymouth sedan. Alexander now admits there was almost a sense of normalcy to the molestation, and a feeling he’d have to give something back for accepting Dodd’s gifts.

But still there was the guilt and humiliation. When Alexander got old enough he resisted Dodd. He would tell him he had someplace he had to be, such as when he got a job at the old Knightville bowling alley, or he would arrange to not be where he was expected. Other times he literally slept for nights on end alone in the woods, just to avoid being seen by Dodd.

In time, Alexander claims, Dodd moved on to others, attempting to molest a younger Alexander sibling.

Eventually, Dodd moved to Biddeford shortly after joining the force there, and Alexander tried his best to deal with the broken soul the man he will only call “that monster,” left behind.

However, when the Catholic Church scandal broke, so did Alexander’s walled up emotions.

“I carried it for so long inside my body, it all stemmed from the trust issue; I didn’t trust anybody,” he said. “I couldn’t even trust my wife fully. But then it all came welling up and I couldn’t just couldn’t hold it in any longer.”

It wasn’t quite a beeline to the Attorney General’s Office. There was an effort to contact reporters who listened once, then never came back. And, when Alexander felt he could no longer live with his tormented memories made fresh by the daily news, there was a suicide attempt at Portland Head Light.

But eventually, Alexander got someone to listen. He told his story to Detective Michael Pulire at the AG’s office.

And then nothing happened. Four months after Alexander’s final interview, Dodd retired from the Biddeford Police Department. In a June 25, 2003 letter to Brian MacMaster, then chairman of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy Board of Trustees, Dodd not only retired, but surrendered his Certificate of Eligibility to work as a law enforcement officer. That move, considered unusual by officials familiar with police practices, effectively barred Dodd from ever again holding a badge of any kind.

But that was all that happened. Alexander said he was never able to get a straight answer from the AG’s office about whether the end of Dodd’s career was tied to his testimony. All he got for years afterward, he said, was that his complaint was part of an ongoing investigation, until he finally got tired of asking.

Then came news last month of another person accusing Dodd of abuse. Biddeford native Matt Lauzon, frustrated by alleged stonewalling by the AG’s office since he filed a complaint in October, took to Facebook to tell his story.

That was covered in the March 12 Courier, in a story by reporter Ben Meiklejohn, who uncovered police reports showing that Dodd, believed to be living in Lakeland, Florida, had been arrested for domestic battery in 2011, following a fight with his 22-year old boyfriend over a sex toy.

Meiklejohn’s story was reprinted in the Sentry.

“I read that and my jaw hit the floor,” Alexander said. “I felt so much sorrow for him and all that stuff this guy did to me came rushing back.”

Alexander called the AG’s office that day, but said he got “the same old song and dance.” Meanwhile, reporters for several area newspapers and TV stations, alerted by coverage in the Courier, have been rebuffed by both the Biddeford PD and the AG’s office. Neither will confirm any investigation of Dodd, current or in the past.

“I spoke to Pulire again, who told me, ‘It’s an ongoing investigation and you’re on the record.’ That’s all he said,” Alexander recalled.

Pulire is the current investigator on the case, according to Lauzon’s Facebook posts.

Since then, a third person has come forward with claims against Dodd, while Alexander hopes to get renewed interest in the case in the court of public opinion – if not in the office of the attorney general.

“I know there’s more people out there who got molested by this guy,” he said. “That’s my concern. It’s got to be exposed because the good old boy network in Augusta isn’t budging. And no one in the Biddeford Police Department is talking.

“What are they trying to protect? They know this guy is a pedophile. I first came forward 13 years ago. And now this is all coming up again? I mean, c’mon man, how much more is it going to take?”

Today, Alexander is on workers compensation, having been injured in a fall while working as a maintenance man in the Cape Elizabeth School Department. Recovery has been slow, he said, because of how hard he worked for so many years — his body now as broken as his mind.

Worse, Alexander harbors crushing guilt, feeling if he’d come forward sooner, maybe Lauzon, or any others out there who have yet to come forward, might never have had the same unsavory experience.

“I have a mental disorder from what was done to me,” Alexander said. “Every moment of my life I feel now like I did when I was being molested and sodomized and raped by this monster who reveled in the control he had over me.

“I still feel like a victim to this day,” he said. “This is with me every waking day. It always will be. I’m certain of that. And yet the monster who broke me, he’s still out there, living his life, because no one would believe me, or do anything about it.”

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