Principal denies claims he abused pupils in '70s

Sisters say they recently recalled being assaulted

December 16, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

Kevin M. Lindsey says he began this school year, his 29th as a Baltimore County educator, thinking it would be the best one of his life.

He felt like he was hitting his stride as principal of McCormick Elementary School in Rosedale, and he was getting ready to remarry.

Then, in the first week of October, he received a telephone call from a woman who had been a pupil at Pine Grove Elementary in Carney when he taught there in the late 1970s, he said. She was accusing him of sexually assaulting her all those years ago.

"I was thinking, `Is this a sad joke? This is twisted,'" Lindsey, 50, said in an interview yesterday at his attorney's office.

Within days of the call, Lindsey was on administrative leave, prohibited from entering school grounds. Last weekend, he was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting two former pupils.

With his new wife at his side yesterday, Lindsey said he is innocent and that he knows of no evidence against him other than "recovered" memories of his two accusers, the caller and her sister.

"I didn't do anything wrong," said the Sparks resident and father of three from a previous marriage. "The charges are laughable."

The caller, now 35, told police that she had recently recovered a "new memory" of Lindsey sexually assaulting her in the school gym when she was in fourth-grade at Pine Grove in 1979, according to charging documents. Her sister, now 34, told police that Lindsey assaulted her in a school bathroom when she was in his second-grade class at Pine Grove in 1977. The documents show she had been in therapy because "she knew something had happened but never knew what it was," and she had been praying when the "memory came to her."

The Sun does not name alleged victims of sexual abuse.

A Baltimore native, Lindsey has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Towson University. He did his student teaching at Pine Grove in the mid-1970s, staying on as a faculty member for four years. He went on to teach at Orems, Carney and Chapel Hill elementary schools and Deep Creek Middle School, all in eastern Baltimore County.

He was the assistant principal at Middle River Middle School when he met Bettie Karst, now the English department chairwoman there and his wife since Nov. 27. He became McCormick's assistant principal five years ago and principal in 2001.

Maryland District Court documents show one prior blemish on Lindsey's criminal record, a 1999 shoplifting case involving two men's shirts at the White Marsh J.C. Penney, for which he was granted probation before judgment. Lindsey said the incident was a misunderstanding, that he was holding the items while his then-wife shopped and did not realize they had not been paid for.

He said he started this fall elated with the people on his staff and confident in a plan to boost test scores at McCormick. "I should be at the pinnacle of my career right now," he said. "You work 28 years to get to where you want to be. ... All of that has simply been erased."

Lindsey said he was at work when he got the call from his accuser. He hung up on her when he realized what she was alleging and immediately called the administrator who oversees northeastern county schools.

Soon, he was placed on administrative leave. The school sent a letter to parents saying Lindsey would "be absent from school for awhile due to a personal matter."

Lindsey said he has not been allowed back to McCormick to gather his things. He was reassigned to the district's professional development office, where he said he'll report next month.

Lindsey said he has endured moments of intense anxiety and depression in the past few months, but nothing left him more incredulous than the events of Saturday morning. The clock read 5:42 a.m. when he and Karst heard pounding on the door. A few moments later, he said, he was standing in his boxer shorts, surrounded by four police officers - with a fifth outside. He recalled the sight of his 15-year-old daughter on the stairs crying as the officers took him away in handcuffs.

He is charged with two counts of child abuse, two counts of second-degree sex offense and one count of third-degree sex offense. Second-degree sex offense carries a maximum penalty of 20 years, court records show.

According to charging documents, Lindsey, when questioned by police, offered to take a polygraph test. His lawyer, Gerald C. Ruter, would not let him comment on whether he did so.

Since his situation became public this week, Lindsey said, he has been heartened by an outpouring of support.

"I want to go back to my school," he said. "I want to go back to my community, and I want to do my job."

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