- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
FALMOUTH — The parents accused of allowing minors to possess or consume alcohol in a party at their home last year said they hope to resume normal lives after settling the charges against them.
“We’ve been through a horror, a nightmare, since last June,” Paula Spencer said in an interview with her husband on Friday, Feb. 15. “I kind of feel like when you go through something really bad like this you have to look for something positive from it, so I know I’m going to be taking these next few months to look for that silver lining.”
Barry Spencer agreed with his wife.
“I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to go through this kind of thing, particularly the trial,” he said.
The Spencer’s 3 1/2-day trial began Feb. 4, seven months after the Falmouth High School baseball and lacrosse teams celebrated their state championships at the Spencers’ Fieldstone Lane home on June 16, 2012.
Two of the minors at the party were charged by police with possession of alcohol by consumption and released. A third was arrested for administrative operating under the influence after nearly driving into a police officer.
After jurors in the trial said they were “hopelessly deadlocked,” the Spencers and Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson reached a settlement. The Spencers must pay $12,000 in restitution, make a $5,000 donation to the Victim’s Compensation Fund, and each of them must complete 100 hours of community service.
The pair also had to accept responsibility for their actions in a public statement published this week by The Forecaster.
During Friday’s interview at the newspaper’s office on Fundy Road, the Spencers each said the most frustrating part of the experience was that, based on advice from attorneys, they couldn’t discuss anything while the charges were pending.
“The story that was out there for a long time was very one-sided,” Barry Spencer said.
Paula Spencer said it was frustrating to be told they couldn’t talk about the case, but kind words from friends and neighbors helped them get through the last seven months.
“People who knew us knew that we weren’t these criminal people that were vilified in the press, and we got a lot of people coming out and supporting us,” she said.
The Spencers said the night of the party they only intended to have their oldest son’s baseball team over to celebrate the state championship. But after the lacrosse team won its title, the party swelled. Barry Spencer said text messages drew nearly 100 teenagers to the house, including some the Spencers did not know and students from out of town.
In testimony during the trial, police Sgt. George Savidge said he assisted Officers Lucas Hallett and Dennis Ryder after he initially found no reason for further investigation. The officers had teenagers yelling at them, and one teen was found unconscious in the Spencer’s back yard.
If they were to hold another championship party, the Spencers said last week, they would call on the help of other parents and plan ahead.
“Even if it does jinx your opportunity to win, you have to plan an event (like this) in advance, with parental involvement, possibly coaches and the school,” Barry Spencer said.
Paula Spencer added that after the party many parents told them they would have helped out if they had been asked, but both Spencers said they had no idea that was even an option for them.
“If I could change one thing, the first thing about that night, besides saying no to the party, it would be to ask other parents to come and help us,” Paula Spencer said.
She added that she wants to apologize to the parents of the teens who had access to alcohol that night, because it was never their intention for the kids to come there to drink.
“I apologize because I knew we were responsible and I don’t take that lightly,” Spencer said.
She said that she hopes that a community conversation about what parents can do to keep children safe can come out of their experience.
She said the biggest problem the night of June 16 was that they didn’t know who to call for help; they weren’t sure if they should call parents, take car keys, or call the police.
“It would be good to have a discussion in the community because I know there are other parents who have had these questions,” Spencer said.
Both Spencers said they are looking forward to moving on with their lives. Doing so, under the court settlement, includes community service.
The Spencers said they are still not sure where they can be most useful.
Paula, a former engineer and self-described “office manager” of their home, said she hopes to work with the Ronald McDonald House, Kids First, or in a soup kitchen. Her husband, an inventor and software architect, said he hopes to work either in computers or a completely different field.
Under terms of the settlement, the charges against the Spencers will be dropped if they fulfill all requirements before Aug. 10.
Paula and Barry Spencer are interviewed at The Forecaster office on Friday, Feb. 15. Charges they hosted an underage drinking party at their home in Falmouth were settled in court in Portland on Feb. 7.
FALMOUTH — After their trial was over, Barry and Paula Spencer last week said they weren’t sure what they could have done to keep a high school party at their home last June from spinning out of control.
Should they have called the police? Should they have called other parents? Taken away teenagers’ car keys?
Lt. John Kibride of the Falmouth Police Department said people should feel comfortable turning to the police for help when a party is getting out of hand.
“We aren’t a heavy-handed outfit,” he said. “We work with all the folks in this community.”
He said the Police Department can get involved even before a party occurs.
Often, the department will receive tips about parties, he said. Officers are sent to the home to alert the homeowner about what they have heard, and to help them put in safeguards.
In cases where a party has already started, Kilbride said parents or youngsters should feel comfortable about calling police for help.
“We would come and we would help out and we wouldn’t charge them (with a crime),” he said. “We aren’t in the business of going out just to charge people, but we will if we have to. We don’t like to see kids running through the woods or getting into cars. We aren’t the enemy, we will come down and help you out and if kids have alcohol we will probably charge them, but if a parent reaches out and says they need help, chances are they are not going to get charged. Even if they do, no (district attorney) is going to follow through with it.”
Thanks to social media, Kilbride said, it is not uncommon for parties to grow beyond parents’ ability to control them. But the police are there to help.
“When you ask us for help we aren’t going to singe you up, we’re going to help you out,” he said.
— Amber Cronin