BANGOR — In the years before his suicide in November, several people questioned the Rev. Robert Carlson’s behavior toward young boys, but no one took action.
That is the thrust of a 104-page Maine State Police investigative report on Carlson, a longtime religious and civic leader who jumped to his death from the Penobscot Narrows Bridge after learning detectives were looking into allegations of child sex abuse involving him.
“There clearly were victims of sexual abuse that indicated that Bob Carlson was their abuser,” Lt. Christopher Coleman, commander of the Maine State Police’s Major Crimes Unit for the northern part of the state, said Wednesday. “It appears that it occurred over many years and it caused a lot of trauma to many people.”
There is no summary in the report, which was released Wednesday, but it includes interviews with people who said they were sexually abused by Carlson. The former president of Husson University, a Penobscot County sheriff’s deputy, a Bangor police officer and a therapist who treated some of Carlson’s victims also were interviewed. They said they had either received information about or witnessed Carlson engage in criminal or sexual behavior over the last four decades.
The therapist, who is not identified, said “that there were at least half a dozen victims,” the state police investigation states.
The report includes several interviews with Carlson’s victims and one with a friend of a victim who reported that “Carlson sexually abused him as a child.” That friend was “the author of the letter” that spurred the investigation, Coleman said.
The report does not indicate whether the letter writer’s friend is the same 11-year-old boy whom Carlson befriended in the early 1970s while his family — a single mother with six children — lived in Orrington.
Carlson began sexually abusing the boy soon after and the two remained in contact through the years, family members said. The Bangor Daily News is not identifying the man because of the possibility that he is a victim.
The report, which includes interviews with 18 people, has large blocks of information blanked out. When police sat down with the victim in the days after Carlson’s suicide, he requested that his information not be released to the news media, according to the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office report into Carlson’s death.
State police detectives began their investigation on Nov. 10 at the request of the Penobscot County district attorney’s office after that office received an anonymous letter stating Carlson “sexually abused a young boy several years ago” while pastor at East Orrington Congregational Church.
Carlson took his own life on Nov. 13, when he jumped from the Penobscot Narrows Bridge in Prospect. Carlson was told about the investigation by Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross, his longtime friend, the day before he committed suicide. The last person to see Carlson alive was the Bangor man identified by his family as his longtime victim, according to the the Waldo County investigation into Carlson’s death.
Detectives have spent the last eight months interviewing the man, his family and others, many of whom reported they had knowledge of Carlson’s actions, the state police investigation said.
Well-known and well-regarded in Greater Bangor, Carlson helped found and was president of Penobscot Community Health Care; was a founder of Hope House, a Bangor shelter for those with drug and alcohol addictions; had served as chaplain for Husson College as well as the Bangor and Brewer police and fire departments; and was a former jail administrator for the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office.
An autopsy completed in the days after Carlson’s death at the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta determined that he drowned, and his death was ruled a suicide.
Waldo County sheriff’s deputies found Carlson’s wallet on the seat of the car. They checked his cellphone and discovered he had spoken to the Bangor man just hours before his death, the report by lead Detective Merl Reed states.
The state police investigation of the Carlson case is now closed, Coleman said.
“Clearly the report indicates there are several victims and there may be more out there,” he said. “At this point it’s closed, but if we had a victim who came forward and wanted their story documented, [it could be reopened]. We’re available to listen.”