Plainville man faces charges of raping adopted daughter

Date: 2000-04-06

Boston Herald
Author: Dave Wedge

A Plainville town employee faces charges that he repeatedly raped his daughter, whom he and his wife adopted from Lithuania.

"It's a horrendous crime," Plainville Police Chief Edward Merrick said of the allegations against Richard Stenfeldt. "I don't understand it. In 30 years, I've never understood why someone would do this."

Stenfeldt, 51, is charged with raping his 11-year-old daughter on various dates, starting in 1996. According to court records, the alleged rapes occurred in Plainville but sources said police are looking into whether some of the assaults may have occurred at the family's remote Vermont cabin.

Stenfeldt, a member of the Plainville Planning Board and a part-time electrical inspector for the town, and his wife, Ann, adopted the girl and her three younger brothers four years ago from Lithuania through the Waltham company Wide Horizons. Wide Horizons officials could not be reached for comment.

According to Merrick, police stepped in amidst rumors that started circulating after the girl told some friends in school about the alleged assaults. Sources said the girl began crying in school during an assembly on sexual assault awareness and was referred to the school psychologist.

Plainville police, working with state police from the Norfolk County District Attorney's office, investigated the case and got an arrest warrant for Stenfeldt last week. He turned himself in last Thursday and was released on $10,000 cash bail after being arraigned in Wrentham District Court later that day.

He faces four counts of rape of a child and four counts of indecent assault and battery on a child.

Police searched his home and confiscated 12 guns, including a number of rifles, and ammunition. A source described Stenfeldt as a "survivalist" who stocked his house with canned goods and water last year in anticipation of Y2K-related shortages.

In light of the allegations, Stenfeldt has taken a six-month leave of absence from his electrical inspector's post. Town Administrator Joseph Fernandes said he cannot be forced to resign from the planning board because it is an elected position.

Attempts to reach Stenfeldt at his Messenger Street home yesterday were unsuccessful.

News of Stenfeldt's arrest hit the small town hard, especially since the horrific abuse case involving Thomas Flanagan just came to a close last week. Flanagan was sentenced to 9 to 11 years in prison for holding his family hostage, ritualistically beating them and choking his wife.

"It's tragic," Fernandes said of the Stenfeldt case. "But we don't know the details. We'll let justice take its course."

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