DEXTER — A statewide search for a man a 7-year-old Dexter girl said assaulted her Oct. 12 has been called off after law enforcement authorities discovered that a majority of the incidents surrounding the report have proven to be unfounded.
“There was no black man, there was no red pickup truck and there was no attack in that parking lot,” R. Christopher Almy, Penobscot County district attorney, said Monday.
Last Wednesday, the 7-year-old girl told police that while she was walking with two friends across a parking lot behind the Water Street Dexter Shoe Co. plant, a man chased them and grabbed the girl and dragged her into the woods, where she was sexually assaulted. The girl described her attacker as a black male, in his 20s or 30s, who sped from the scene in a red pickup truck with a white male companion. Her account was corroborated by her two friends.
Roger Wintle, who lives across from the Dexter Shoe parking lot, said residents in his neighborhood were greatly reassured to hear the news Monday afternoon.
“We’re really relieved,” he said. “It seemed so believable. This is all we could talk about for the last couple of days. But still people are thinking about it today and still thinking that something like this could have happened, what with all of the drugs and strange people that there are out there today.”
Almy said Monday that “all three (girls) have now admitted that this did not happen.”
Medical evidence taken after the alleged incident showed that the 7-year-old had received injuries to the chin, knee and genitals, Almy said Monday, but “we don’t know when, or how.”
Almy said that law enforcement officials felt it was important to discount the story as soon as possible, because “it has caused a lot of fear and anxiety in the town of Dexter.”
Numerous interviews were conducted by representatives from the district attorney’s office and local police over the weekend, leading officials to Monday’s conclusion about the authenticity of the girls’ story. School officials were contacted Sunday to be made aware of the findings of the district attorney’s office, Almy said. On Monday, Almy credited the local police and the school department with their handling of a very difficult situation.
Almy said that the investigation into the case will continue.
Community reaction to Monday’s announcement was slow in coming because the word had not gotten out about the child’s story.
But last week school officials rallied to offer their assistance to their students following news of the attack.
Last Thursday, Principal Jan Breton and her staff at the Dexter Primary/Middle School devoted a part of the classroom day to safety issues. These classes were a normal component of the school’s curriculum, but it was felt that in light of the little girls’ account of the attack the day before, focusing on safety that day was especially timely. Guidance services were also offered to the girl’s class and to anyone in school who might have needed such services.
If questions do start arising at the school, Breton said, educators would still impart the same message of safety, but more elaboration may be made on recounting the truth to adults.
“We will tell them that it is important to tell the truth and it’s important to tell an adult and it’s important not to keep a story going,” she said.