The Seduction of Peter Jay Rudge; Rolling Stone MAGAZINE, Jan 01 1993
|In this quite long text, we have inserted some headings and sub-headings - Ipce.|
Part One: Missing
When a thirteen-year-old boy disappeared ...
... with his mother's forty-year-old friend, the people of Portland thought it was murder. Then they thought it was something else.
Within days of their August 30th, 1991, disappearance, the whereabouts of Diane Lyn Walden, 40, and her friend Peter Jay Rudge, 13, had supplanted the early exit of the Trail Blazers from the NBA playoffs as the favorite topic of front-porch small talk and fireside speculation in Portland, Oregon.
The pair had been last seen at half past six on that Friday evening, tooling south in Diane's blue BMW 735i, headed in the direction of the Progress Downs Golf Course, where they were scheduled to play a round of nine holes.
The report filed by the Portland Police Bureau on the following afternoon warily traced the curious configuration of coincidence that surrounded the pair's mysterious departure.
Friday was to be the last day Diane and Peter Jay spent together, according to the boy's mother, Francie Rudge, an intense and sinewy aerobics instructor at the Gold's Gym in nearby Beaverton.
Peter had been employed since June as a "youth assistant'' at Mrs. Walden's day-care center, Kinderland, Mrs. Rudge explained, and the two had grown "unusually close'' that summer, playing golf together three times a week, often dining out together afterward.
More than a little contention was generated in both the Rudge and Walden households by the amount of time the two spent with each other, added Francie, who had decided with her husband, Pete Sr., that Peter Jay's job at Kinderland would end the week before he entered the eighth grade at Robert Gray Middle School.
She woke Peter Jay with his younger brothers, David and Tommy, at about 7:00 a.m. on Friday, Francie recalled,
"and reminded him it was his last day at Kinderland.''
The only unusual event of the morning occurred when Peter Jay carried an Avia sports bag from his bedroom to the front door.
"I asked, `What's that?' '' she remembered. "He opened it, and I saw a lot of white - T-shirts, underwear, socks.''
Why did he need all this? Francie asked. In case it rains, her son answered.
Peter Jay came home from Kinderland at five to pick up his golf clubs, and Francie, who was leading an afternoon step class at Gold's, "just missed him.'' Pete Sr., owner of a small alarm-installation company, was stacking some empty boxes in the garage when
"Peter came in to get his golf clubs and asked me for a kiss.''
"I was taken aback,'' Pete Sr. said. "Things had gotten a little cold between us as far as affection. I figured, a teenage boy. . .''
After they embraced, the father stood awkwardly for a moment. All he could think to offer was his golf cart, but Peter Jay didn't want it. As his son walked down the driveway toward the BMW,
"I called, 'Keep it in the hole, Peter,' '' Pete Sr. said. "It's a golf expression.'' The boy "turned, smiled, got in the car and then was gone.''
The first alert sounded at 10:00 p.m., when Diane's husband, Jerry Walden, called Francie,
"wondering where they were.''
"I told [Jerry] it was okay,'' Francie said.
Since it was their last night together, she had given Diane permission to keep Peter out until eleven.
When he called again at 11:30, though,
"Jerry was very up set,'' Francie remembered. "He said: 'This is it. This is ridiculous. This is not going on anymore.' ''
Francie again told him not to worry.
Francie had begun watching out the window also, and at midnight she woke her own husband, who had fallen asleep on the couch in front of the TV.
"I wanted him to call road service and see if there had been a report,'' Francie said.
Nothing on a blue BMW, Pete reported back a few minutes later.
Jerry Walden phoned again at 2:30 a.m. to say he had spent the past three hours driving through every theater lot in the area looking for Diane's car.
"I was panic-struck,'' Francie said.
By dawn she had called every emergency room in the metropolitan area. Pete Sr. sat out on the front porch all night
"listening to cars go by.''
Francie called the police to file a missing-persons report at 7:00 Saturday morning.
"I was petrified,'' she said.
The sole comforting thought she could cling to was Jerry's suggestion
"that maybe they went to the state fair in Salem and got a room because it was so late.''
That hope, though, had dissolved by the time the Portland police sent a patrolman to interview the Rudges at noon. Francie felt
"something out of their control had happened'' to Peter and Diane.
On Sunday, while Francie - who hadn't slept in forty-eight hours - asked a friend for a ride out to Progress Downs, Pete Sr. drove across the river to Sah-Hah-Lee, another course Diane and Peter had mentioned.
"At Sah-Hah-Lee, the way in is winding, with a lot of places where a car could go off the road and not be seen,'' Pete Sr. said.
He spent the afternoon there, searching the brush for a blue BMW.
"No sign,'' he told Francie that evening.
At Progress Downs, Francie showed everyone her most recent photograph of Peter Jay, only to learn that
"they were having a big sale at the golf course that day, and there were tons of kids who looked like him - wearing a baseball cap, Nike shoes, T-shirt and shorts; one cocktail waitress who worked outside thought she might have seen him, but she wasn't sure.''
The parents hired a private investigator the next day.
"We were getting nowhere with the police,'' Francie said.
Their investigator returned from Progress Downs with scary news: There had been fifteen car break-ins in the parking lot on that Friday evening.
"We thought they could have been approached and taken off at gun point,'' Francie said.
When Jerry called that same day with news that there had been not fifteen but thirty car break-ins at Progress Downs that weekend, Francie said,
"We pictured them killed on the roadside by someone who had driven the car off a cliff.''
After a great deal of pleading, the Rudges persuaded the Portland police to search the area around the golf course.
"They found a pair of underpants,'' Francie remembered. "But not the kind my son wears.''
"kept close with Jerry,'' as Pete Sr. put it: "We were both in the same boat. Jerry was looking for evidence at his house, and he said nothing made sense. He said Diane didn't take what she would have taken if she was planning to leave.''
Francie, meanwhile, built what her husband called "an altar'' of photographs, rosaries, prayer cards and lucky charms for Peter Jay in the living room, where she was sleeping on the floor
"so I could hear both phones, the one in the kitchen and the other one in the office,'' she said. "I never left my house.''
The Rudges hired a second investigator, Harry Oakes, on September 5th. Oakes insisted upon questioning each of the Rudges separately.
The most compelling revelation came from eight-year-old Tommy, who recalled a conversation with Peter Jay that had taken place about a week before his disappearance:
"Peter said, 'No body around here would care if I left and went to Mexico - except you'd care, right, Tommy?' ''
Before he proceeded further, Oakes asked for permission to "search Peter Jay's room totally,'' his mother recalled. Less than an hour later, the investigator emerged with a red notebook he found wedged behind the desk, containing, among other things,
"a list in Peter's handwriting.''
|(3) one lantern,|
|(4) two sleeping bags,|
|(5) eating utensils,|
|(6) pocketknife,'' it read.|
"The mention of camping stuff struck me,'' Francie recalled. "I thought it was from the outdoor school Peter went to. But Harry said, 'Look closer.' "
|(7) All underpants,|
|(8) all short-sleeve shirts,|
|(9) all shoes,'' the list continued.|
She already had determined that at least three pairs of Peter's shoes were missing, Francie said. "Keep reading", Oakes told her.
|(10) Updated license plates,|
|(11) money belt,|
|(12) at least $ 3000,|
|(13) passports, total of two,''|
the list went on, before ending with,
|"(14) Brown contact lenses.''|
"That totally freaked me,'' Francie said. "My son's eyes are blue.''
Discovery of the list ...
... was reported almost immediately in Portland's daily newspaper, the the Oregonian.
"There was still a great deal of doubt at that point,'' said the paper's columnist Phil Stanford. "Either they were dead or they'd run off.''
"Could something evil have befallen Peter and Diane?'' wondered the city's alternative paper, Willamette Week. "It's possible. But it would be an incredible coincidence that two people whose relationship was already so provocative and mysterious should accidentally disappear together - on the very day they were to stop seeing each other.''
Perversely - though perhaps understandably - the leading proponent of what became known in the press as the Foul-Play Theory was Diane's husband.
"Jerry Walden knows what people are saying,'' Phil Stanford reported in the Oregonian. "That his wife ran off with a thirteen-year-old boy.''
The people who spread such stories had no idea what kind of a woman Diane was, Jerry asserted. Before taking over the preschool, his wife had worked for ten years at Fireman's Fund Insurance, rising from typist to regional manager. When he and Diane purchased Kinderland back in 1983, the place was a pair of dilapidated buildings on a lot overgrown with ivy and bamboo. Fewer than twenty children were enrolled. By the summer of 1991 the preschool was filled to capacity, with more than 140 kids in attendance.
And Diane was not just a successful businesswoman, Jerry pointed out, but "a loving, devoted mother'' as well, one who had served for two years as homeroom parent to their ten-year-old son Michael's class at Bridlemie School while working full time, who only last spring had volunteered to supervise the promotion ceremonies at West Sylvan Middle School when their fourteen-year-old daughter Kristina graduated from the eighth grade.
Diane missed her children so terribly when they went off to camp for two weeks at the beginning of August that she drove nine hours round trip just to spend an afternoon with them.
|If his wife was planning to run away with Peter Jay Rudge, Jerry asked, why had she informed her office assistant at Kinderland on Friday afternoon that she would be coming in the next morning to complete some paperwork?|
|Why had Diane promised Kristina that on Sunday they would attend the state fair in Salem together?|
Diane's forty-first birthday was September 25th, Jerry noted, and she already had penciled in plans for a family dinner on her calendar.
"There were no clothes missing that I know of,'' Jerry told Phil. "All her make-up is at home. Her hair dryer, it's still there.''
Jerry was the last person who could recall seeing Diane and Peter on August 30th, when he passed them in the Kinderland parking lot.
"I asked, 'Are you still planning on going golfing?' '' Jerry remembered. "And they both said yes.''
Jerry did not stand alone in his defense of Diane's character. Her brother Dennis DeLeon, chairman of New York City's Human Rights Commission, flew into town to argue for the Foul-Play Theory
"and took the Portland Police Bureau to task for not following up on a lead that the pair may have surprised a car prowler at Progress Downs,'' the Oregonian reported.
DeLeon added that "he resented suggestions that his sister had a hand in the disappearance.''
"I'm proud of my sister,'' Diane's brother said. "She has led an exemplary life.''
Parents whose children were enrolled at Kinderland chimed in.
"Diane makes every child think they're special,'' said Jennifer Agee, a single mother and CPA whose three children all attended Kinderland. Back when "I was first divorced and in financial difficulty, Diane gave me a special rate until I finished school,'' Agee recalled. "And when I took the CPA exam, which lasts two and a half days, Diane kept the kids so I could rest and study at night.''
"My daughter Lindsey regards Diane as her best friend, her fairy godmother,'' said Lillian Tsai, whose work as a marketing executive kept her out of town for days at a time.
Mrs. Walden's principal accuser ...
Francie Rudge, readily agreed that Diane was
"great with kids,'' "fun to be with'' and "a really super nice friend.''
These were the very qualities that had drawn her to the woman in the first place.
It was the Rudge and Walden children who met first, in August of 1990 at a Sports Fitness Camp at Wilson High School. The first Pete Sr. remembered hearing of the Waldens was when his middle son, David,
"announced, 'Michael Walden is now my best friend.' ''
In Francie's recollection, it was Peter Jay's crush on Kristina that initially brought the families together.
Whoever led the way, Peter and David soon were stopping by after camp to cool off in the Waldens' backyard swimming pool. Kristina and Michael not only had a pool but parents whose combined income was nearly triple what the Rudges earned.
Aside from the profits at Kinderland, the sale of Jerry's partnership in his successful CPA firm in 1985 brought him a hefty down payment and $ 5850 a month for five years, an imposing sum in a city where people still bought three-bedroom houses in nice neighborhoods for $ 70,000.
Jerry and Diane also had owned a computer-software company and a Bresler's Ice Cream Shop. Plus, Jerry continued to do accounting work on the side. To complement his wife's big BMW, Jerry drove a new Jeep Cherokee. Diane spent money like the Rudge boys couldn't believe and thought nothing of springing for a movie at the Washington Square Cinemas and a meal afterwards at McDonald's, a treat their own mother could afford once a month at best.
The parents all met at the Fitness Camp banquet, where Kristina was presented with a red plaque naming her as Best Camper. Francie and Diane hit it off right away. Both refugees from Southern California and "active shoppers,'' as Francie put it, the two women went to malls twice a week and "played.''
Inevitably, confidences were exchanged. Diane, raised by parents who were both teachers amid the oil refineries and surfer ethos of Torrance, wanted to make it clear that she was "not Mexican'' but rather Spanish, a descendant of the explorer Ponce de Leon, whose quest for the Fountain of Youth led him to the discovery of Florida. She had been a PE major at El Camino College, a shy coed whose darkly attractive features were opposed by a tendency toward tubbiness.
Jerry was her first real boyfriend,
and she married him soon after meeting in 1969, when they eloped to Las Vegas. The move to Oregon in 1972 was precipitated by an early tragedy, the death during delivery of their first child, a daughter, in Jun of 1971. Her marriage had lacked excitement for years, Diane admitted. She tried leaving Jerry back in 1986.
Her husband "just wouldn't let go,'' Diane said. When she "rejected Jerry's overtures at reconciliation,'' Diane said, he responded by "following me.''
"He'd do things to humiliate me in front of people,'' she recounted.
Worse, her children felt compelled to take sides. When Diane asked for a divorce, Jerry made it clear she could expect a custody battle.
"I was very depressed, and everyone wanted us back together'' was how she explained her decision to end the separation after nine months.
.. had known no small amount of domestic strife herself. Her parents divorced while she was in high school, and she moved out on her own at eighteen, seeking asylum in the retrograde counterculture that clung to the Venice Beach boardwalk.
An impetuous decision to move in with a young man who beat her brutally added physical scars to the psychological ones. Pete, five years older, had married "young and stupid'' also and was haunted still by the decision to give up an infant son to adoption during his divorce.
The two of them married in 1974 on Francie's twenty-first birthday and were living in a Santa Monica bungalow in February of 1978 when Peter Jay was born. By the time David arrived three years later, she and Pete had decided
"we weren't going to raise our kids in Los Angeles,'' Francie said,
and the family moved to Portland in the summer of 1981.
Though her lithe body was the armor of Francie's self-esteem, it hadn't always been this way, she told Diane: After Tommy's birth in 1983, she was fifty pounds overweight and ashamed to leave her house.
She did not begin going to the gym until 1987 but after two months was invited to teach the aerobics class she had entered as a student. Francie encouraged Diane to believe the same transformation was possible for her, enrolling Diane in her mid-morning step class.
"I also got her a nutritionist,'' Francie remembered.
Diane stayed with the program for a time, following Francie to the Riverplace Athletic Club in December of 1990 and shedding twenty pounds along the way.
By then, Francie recalled, it had become "obvious'' that Diane "liked Peter Jay a lot.''
Diane was generous with all three Rudge boys, but the oldest clearly was her favorite. Diane gave David and Tommy Christmas presents in 1990 but bought Peter so many that she had to save some for his birthday.
When Peter turned thirteen in February of 1991, Diane not only presented him with the cache of gifts she had been saving since December but went in with Francie to pay for a pair of the Sun Cloud shades his own parents couldn't afford. Diane and Peter had begun golfing together by then, often breaking off after nine holes to dine together at Sizzler.
During spring break at the end of March, Peter was invited to join Diane and three of her staff as a "junior counselor'' when they took fifteen Kinderland children along on a weekend excursion to Seattle, traveling north by train, staying together at the city's YMCA and making day trips to the Space Needle and Seattle Aquarium.
It was right around this time that an undercurrent of tension began to develop between Francie and Diane - and between Francie and Peter Jay as well - about the amount of time the odd couple were spending together.
Peter always had been a "near-perfect child,'' said Francie, an A and B student who was "very hard on himself.''
"A boy who took instructions well,'' said his soccer coach.
"Diligent and trustworthy,'' said the school disciplinarian at Robert Gray, who could find only a single report of misconduct - for throwing a wad of paper at another kid from the window of a school bus - in Peter Jay's file. Handsome and popular, the boy's insecurities showed only in sports.
"He was good in practice but choked in games, said Pete Sr.
Her son seemed to be taking a sudden turn for the worse, though, as Francie saw it.
"Peter wanted to work [at Kinderland] every school holiday, go on every field trip,'' his mother recalled. "He stopped playing, stopped hanging out and just wanted to go over there after school.''
The Rudges were "talking a lot about this in the spring of 1991,'' she remembered. "Peter Jay said he really wanted to [work at Kinderland], that he felt very grown up by this.''
Among her many reasons for relenting, Francie said, was the success she enjoyed in using his job "to motivate Peter.'' As a seventh grader, her son let his marks slip to B's and C's, but Francie said,
"[When] I told him, 'You can't go back to Kinderland unless you get your grades up,' it worked.''
Also, Diane genuinely seemed to care about Peter, volunteering to help him prepare class projects, once taking him to a travel agency to collect brochures he could use for a geography assignment.
It was Diane as well who took Peter Jay shopping for Mother's Day gifts, although there was a ragged edge on Francie's laugh when she saw the I'M NOT CRAZY, JUST PMS coffee mug and the STOP ME BEFORE I SHOP AGAIN checkbook cover her son had selected with Diane's help.
Peter Jay's parents agreed he could work at Kinderland during the summer of 1991. Mostly,
"I just sit there and, like, play with the kids,'' Peter explained.
Pete Sr., whose affability worked as counterweight to Francie's volatile nature,
"was always in the background whispering, 'We owe these people - why are our kids always there?''' his wife said.
Pete's voice was raised for the first time ...
... when Peter Jay came home from Washington Square with the $ 200 Starter jacket Diane had purchased as payment for his first week at Kinderland. It wasn't so much the expensive jacket as his feeling that this was "an abnormal situation,'' Pete Sr. said.
"Peter Jay wanted to spend all his time with Diane,'' Francie explained. "He not only was seeing her five or six days a week, he was talking to her on the phone every day.''
Not that he and his wife sensed any malevolence in Mrs. Walden, Pete hastened to add
- "I saw Diane as a big kid herself, someone who genuinely liked being with children" -
but this just wasn't what he had in mind for his eldest son:
"I felt Peter was wasting the summer, wasting his youth, not getting the memories of roughhousing with the guys that I thought healthier.''
On Father's Day, June 16th, Pete Sr. summoned Diane and Peter Jay to a meeting in his basement office.
"I asked Diane how she'd feel if I, a forty-year-old man, spent this amount of time with Kristina,'' Pete Sr. said.
As he listed his objections, Pete recalled:
"Diane kept nodding. Peter sat with his head down. Then Diane would repeat and interpret what I had just said. It was like I was talking to Peter through Diane.''
After the meeting, his son
"came in my room crying,'' Peter said. "He said working at Kinderland made him feel like an adult, that the younger kids there looked up to him.''
Later that afternoon, Pete Sr. called his own father and asked for advice.
"My dad said: 'What are you worried about? At least he's not out stealing,' ''
Pete remembered. "I felt like a heel.''
Diane and Francie were still friends. Though Diane was too busy to attend Francie's aerobics class, the two continued to walk in the evenings.
One night not long after the talk in the office, Francie told Diane of a recent visit by some old friends, the Popmas. Their daughter Jenny, a classmate of Peter's at Robert Gray, had been fitted with contacts just the day before, and when she walked through the door, "Peter was just awed by her,'' his mother recalled. After dinner, he seemed in a big hurry to ditch both sets of parents.
Then as the Popmas were leaving, Francie noticed Jenny was wearing the sweatshirt Diane had given Peter Jay at Christmas and asked for it back. When she closed the door, though, Francie said, her son was furious:
"He said, 'Mom, I asked her to wear it!' ''
Though it took her by surprise, Peter's flirtation with Jenny made her feel better, Francie told her friend,
"like our talk hit base with him.''
"I was taken aback by Diane's expression,'' Francie recalled. "Her face went blank rather than showing approval.''
It was on one of their walks about a week later, Francie remembered, that Diane confessed she and Jerry were
"having problems'' again. "I had never seen her so upset,'' Francie said. "She said she would not be able to continue, that [she and Jerry] had a humongous fight, that they were talking, and he hit her, began pulling things out of the closets and throwing them around. She said she was afraid to go home.''
Just before Francie's thirty-eighth birthday, which was also the Rudges' seventeenth wedding anniversary, Diane proposed that "as a gift,'' she'd like to take all three Rudge boys along with her own children, sans Jerry, on a trip to Seattle so their parents might have a weekend to themselves.
When Francie and Pete returned from two nights at the coast, however, their holiday seemed paltry compared with what Peter, David and Tommy had enjoyed. The boys told story after story about their plush suite at the Westin Hotel, of trips to the Space Needle and the Omnidome, of steak dinners in fine restaurants and hot-fudge sundaes ordered from room service at midnight. What rankled Pete was that his sons were unable to understand why they couldn't live like this all the time.
"Someone with no boundaries: buy anything, eat anywhere, do anything"
"My kids were around someone with no boundaries: buy anything, eat anywhere, do anything,'' he complained.
One Sunday after Diane had treated Francie's boys to restaurant meals for seven straight nights, Francie drove to Taco Bell, ordered fifty tacos and took them to the Waldens' house for dinner. Watching Peter Jay return home again and again, however, with new treasures he and Diane purchased with his wages from Kinderland - a pair of Air Jordans one week, a Prince tennis racket the next - she knew it would be impossible to match Diane dollar-for-dollar.
By the beginning of July, it was if the talk in the office never happened. Her son was spending ten hours a day at Kinderland and
"Diane and Peter were seeing each other at least four times a week after work,'' Francie recalled.
What made it difficult to say no was that David and Tommy usually were invited along as well.
"Our kids would call to see if they could go to a movie, or out to eat, or shopping, or to play golf,'' Francie remembered. If she refused permission, "David would call me back and talk me into it,'' Francie explained.
Confused and distressed
She and Diane no longer saw each other socially, not even to take walks. Francie was alternately confused and distressed by the relationship between her friend and her son.
Diane and Peter had begun to buy matching golf outfits, cranberry polo shirts from J.Crew, periwinkle sweatshirts from the Gap - more than a dozen altogether.
"They'd plan, like, Friday night, 'Let's wear this,' '' Francie recalled. The two not only had a favorite number, four, but even an "our song,'' by Bryan Adams, "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You.''
"I had no understanding of what my son was thinking,'' Francie said. "I asked: 'Peter Jay, what is the attraction here? Is she a babe?' He was calling all the girls babes. He looked disgusted and said, 'No way!' Diane was just 'my very best friend,' Peter explained.''
Shortly after this conversation, Diane and Peter told Francie
"they wanted to take me out for a night on the town.''
The evening was a fiasco. First Peter Jay went into a sulk because
"the cars were closed at Malibu Grand Prix,'' Francie recalled, and then "in the restaurant when we ate dinner, I got uncomfortable and quietly angry.''
"I was excluded from the conversation,'' she said. "There were all these little private jokes between Peter and Diane.''
Francie was fighting back tears by the time Diane dropped her off at home,
"but then when we were alone, Peter suddenly became the Peter I knew,'' she remembered. "He said, 'Mom, what's wrong?' ''
Pete Sr. described a similar experience when Diane and Peter Jay invited him to golf with them at Progress Downs:
"I said to Francie, 'Golf was more like me and Diane-and-Peter.' They would talk to each other, apart from me. They kept lagging behind, like they didn't want me to hear.''
In mid-July, Francie and Pete Sr. announced ....
... that Peter Jay would not be working at Kinderland during August.
"I wanted him to get the feeling of being bored, of being home, of hanging out, going down to the park, getting on his bike and riding off,'' Francie said.
Diane was "disappointed but understanding,'' when informed of the decision, Francie recalled. Peter, however, "got really upset,'' his mother said:
"He said, 'Mom, please don't take this from me.' I wondered if I was overreacting.''
Francie's mother, Maggi King,
... thought she was. Before arriving in Portland from Los Angeles on August 1st,
"I was concerned about what I had heard of Peter's relationship with Diane Walden,'' Maggie said. "I had a very strong desire to observe them together.'' It was clear from the first night she spent with her daughter's family that "there was a lot of friction between Francie and Peter Jay,'' Maggie remembered. "Peter began to cry one evening when Francie told him he couldn't go to Kinderland the next day; it was like he had to be there.''
Maggi's first opportunity to spend time with Diane was one evening when she volunteered to baby-sit while Pete and Francie went out to a movie.
"Before they left, Francie made a big dinner and at the last moment invited Diane,'' Maggie recalled.
What struck her as odd was not that Diane arrived without her husband or her children but that the woman
"broke other plans to be there - it seemed to be that important for her.''
Diane brought along the bead collection from which she and the Rudge boys had been stringing necklaces that summer, and as Maggie watched the woman with her grandsons, she softened:
"They were all so interested in what they were doing. It looked very good to me. Diane seemed a very patient, kind friend.''
"A wonderful, caring woman''
was how Maggi described Diane to her daughter the next morning during the drive to the airport. She was more concerned by the strife between Francie and Peter Jay than by the boy's relationship with Mrs. Walden, Maggi added; she and Peter Jay had prayed together that very morning for
"harmony and peace in this household.''
Francie by then had rescinded her decree ...
... that Peter could not work at Kinderland during August, allowing him three days a week at the preschool. The rains that lingered into July dribbled away finally, and the last month of summer was a scorcher, day after day of temperatures in the nineties. The Rudges - Francie included - swam almost every afternoon in the Waldens' pool, often staying for barbecue.
Francie, deciding she probably had been too touchy after all, planned a "family feast'' for the evening of August 17th, and invited Diane as her special guest. Once again, though,
"the connection of [Diane and Peter] just overwhelmed everything else,'' Pete Sr. remembered.
The two shared one in joke after another, almost all at the expense of the boy's mother.
"Francie had cooked a special chicken dinner,'' Pete Sr. recalled, "I remember going, 'Mmm-mmm-mmm.' And Peter was mocking me - going, 'Mmm-mmmm-mmm' when he ate it.''
Worse was the way Diane "supported'' the boy's sarcasm, Pete said: "Usually an adult would say, 'Oh, Peter, don't say those things.' But [Diane] would laugh - almost like a girlfriend would laugh at anything her boyfriend says.''
After dinner, Pete pulled his son into the kitchen and told him, loudly, "I don't like you making fun of your family. You're a Rudge, not a Walden.''
The relationship between Francie and Peter Jay ...
... grew ever more "tempestuous'' after that, Pete Sr. recalled.
"Francie would get loud,'' her husband conceded. "Francie often yells. I have warned her you need a couple of different stages with kids. I want them to know that when I raise my voice, it means something.''
The one point on which both parents agreed was that ...
... the obsessive pattern of Peter's involvement with Diane had to be broken:
Pete Sr. and Francie were together when they informed their son he would quit his job at the end of August.
"We told Peter that Kinderland was over; from now on he's gonna be home or with friends his own age,'' Francie remembered.
Her son's "realization that a change was coming,'' Francie said, "brought things to a head.'' "There were not only tears but disrespect,'' she recalled. "He began fighting me back.''
Peter Jay accused his mother of favoring her youngest son and began taunting Tommy with the nickname Pureboy.
By the end of August,
"Peter was shutting Francie out when she yelled,'' Pete Sr. said. "It went in one ear and out the other.''
"I was getting so tense over this, it was awful,'' Francie agreed. "I would start calm, then it seemed to where I was fighting him, laying down the law.''
Francie too often reversed decisions, Pete contended, or relented on punishments.
"I'd say, 'Tonight we're doing this,' '' Francie said, "and then the kids would call [from Kinderland] and say, 'Mom, can we please do this or that with Diane?' ''
On the morning of Thursday, August 29th, Francie prepared a special Italian meal to serve that evening at a celebration of the new school year. When she arrived home from work, however, Francie learned that Diane had taken Peter and David off to a hobby shop on the other side of the river, telling Pete Sr. she would have the boys home by 8:00 p.m.
When Peter and David walked through the front door at 9:30, Francie erupted at her oldest son:
"You know, Peter Jay, after tomorrow night, this is it. You are going to be here. You're going to school. Life is going back to normal.''
Francie also fired one last broadside at Diane Walden:
"I said some thing to the effect that Diane was a fat bitch, and I wanted her definitely out of my family's life.''
Diane was gone by the following afternoon, but so was Peter Jay
"Few events this year have so captured the attention of Portlanders as Diane and Peter's disappearance,'' Willamette Week noted in its October 3rd, 1991, edition. "The evidence suggests they ran off together in Diane's blue BMW. Social norms insist they could not have.''
Public fascination with the case was fueled by the expensive four-by-five-inch advertisements Jerry Walden began running on page 3 in the Oregonian less than two weeks after his wife's disappearance.
MISSING, they were emblazoned, with a pretty-boy Peter Jay juxtaposed to a particularly unflattering snapshot of Diane. "13 1/2 years old; blue eyes, brown hair; wearing shorts, T-shirt & Nike shoes; Ht. 5'2'', Wt. 110 lbs.,''
read the description of Peter Rudge, while Diane's particulars were listed by her husband as
"40 years old; brown eyes, black hair; wearing white T-shirt, black vest & shorts; Ht. 5'6'', Wt. 180 lbs.''
"The Walden family is offering a reward of $ 2500 to the first person whose information results in the location and return of Diane Walden and Peter Rudge,''
Jerry wrote at the bottom, a promise received with some skepticism among those police officers who suspected that the jealous husband had done away with Diane and Peter.
"Clearly things had been very strained with that marriage,''
noted the Oregonian's Stanford. Francie Rudge, whose interviews sustained public interest in the case, was the first to disclose that just last June, Jerry had hit Diane for the first time in their twenty-two-year marriage.
"A goddamned lie,'' Jerry retorted. "Diane said to me, 'I will not be with Jerry forever,' '' Francie assured Stanford. "Francie wanted the publicity,'' the columnist recalled. "She wanted to force the police to act. She was quite convinced that they had run off, but then I'd talk to Diane's husband, who seemed to be more comfortable with - of the two alternatives - the idea that they were dead.''
When Stanford reported the discovery of the list,
"most of the people I heard from were friends of the Walden family who called up to say, 'It couldn't happen,' '' he recalled. "The Diane that we all know is not like that at all,'' one mother whose son attended Kinderland told Willamette Week's Jill Smith. "She would never, ever leave. Ever.''
Other friends and family members, however, confirmed that all had not been well with the Waldens.
"[Diane] said she was not happy with her marriage, and the stress from her job, that she was worn out and didn't want to do it anymore,'' reported her assistant at Kinderland, Paige McClellan.
Diane's departure was "inevitable,'' her friend Carol Yoshida told an investigator, adding that, according to Diane, Jerry "beat up'' on her.
Diane's mother, Josephine Munoz Whitman, said Diane had shown her bruises when she flew to Portland from Los Angeles for the July 4th weekend and remembered also that her daughter was sleeping alone in the spare bedroom downstairs.
Francie Rudge was still bedding down on the living-room floor beneath the shrine of her son. Every piece of stray information that came in seemed to point in the same direction.
|A teacher's aide at Kinderland whose job the past
summer had been preparing children for the drive to
the pool where they swam in the afternoon, recalled
that Diane - "always off with Peter'' - had
been late almost every day during July and August. |
|A second aide assigned to assist Diane in
supervising the children at the pool reported that
it had become Mrs. Walden's habit to leave with
Peter Rudge "as soon as the children were
dropped off,'' barely returning in time to make the
return trip two hours later. |
|"I left work several times thinking, 'Is this
an unusual situation?' '' remembered a third
assistant at the school. |
|Debra Hale, whose six-year-old son had been at
Kinderland until July of 1991, remembered Paige
McClellan complaining that "Diane was gone two
or three hours a day for lunch with Peter Rudge, and
Paige said they were doing more than lunch in that
much time.'' |
|Victoria Adams, the school's Montessori teacher,
recalled hearing Paige "speculate that [Diane
and Peter] had an apartment they went to.'' |
|A ten-year-old named Doug MacEwan remembered hearing Diane's nephew Alan Kennedy, a Kinderland teacher, accuse Mrs. Walden of "having a thirteen-year-old boyfriend.''|
The most provocative recollections of all came from a pair of Peter's friends. Shaun Fagan, 13, remembered that one of the few times he had seen Peter Jay during the past summer was on August 6th, when he spotted the Rudge boy walking into the McDonald's on Martin Luther King Boulevard with Diane Walden.
|"I said, 'Mom, I just saw Peter Jay Rudge,'
'' Shaun remembered. "And she said, 'Was he
with his mom?' I said, 'No, he was with that lady he
works for.' And I told my mom, 'It was really weird
- they were holding hands.' '' |
|Jared Smith, also 13, recalled a conversation at
the end of July when Peter announced he would not be
coming back to school in September. "I said:
'Really? Why?' '' Jared remembered. "He said he
was going to run away.''
Later, when he asked if Peter was going by himself, Jared recalled, "He said, 'No, somebody's going with me.' ''
Jared figured it was just big talk, like the story Peter told that summer about having sex with a sixth-grade girl during a family vacation when he was a fourth grader.
"Are Peter and Diane cruising down U.S. 101 toward Mexico - hitting golf courses along the way?'' wondered Willamette Week.
Thirty-nine nights passed without one word from either Diane or Peter.
"I kept asking my husband if [the theory that Peter had run off with Diane] was what we really believed,'' Francie said.
It was the fortieth day, October 8th, when Francie answered her phone on the first ring and spoke to a Multnomah County sheriff's detective who told her that Peter Jay and Diane were alive and well in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where they had been taken into custody by police officers in the parking garage at Bally's Park Place Hotel and Casino.
It was the report of a BMW with Oregon plates ...
... that seemed to be "set up for sleeping purposes'' that brought officers from the Atlantic City Police Department to Bally's on the afternoon of October 7th. The call from the casino came to a detective named Jack Imfeld, a florid fellow with a gravelly Jersey accent and a pair of lace-up alligator boots. Imfeld ran a routine check on the BMW's license plate, roused into action when "it came back a hit.''
The detective inspected the vehicle personally, noting piles of clothing, a pair of pillows, a cooler and a ticket stub from the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo. Cops on the casino detail understood they were involved in a joint venture, and while Imfeld himself set up "visual surveillance'' on the BMW that afternoon, it was a crew from Bally's that operated the video camera positioned near the elevators.
Nineteen hours later, the car was still sitting, and Imfeld finally went off duty. The stakeout unit took over the surveillance at that point, posting a detective named Dennis McGee nearby in a Ford pickup.
It was two minutes before 2:00 p.m. the next afternoon when Diane Walden and Peter Jay Rudge, each clad in shorts and a T-shirt, approached the BMW and climbed in.
Before Diane got the key in the ignition, McGee was at the window, pressing his badge against the glass and ordering her out onto the pavement. Peter reached for Diane as she was pulled from her seat and cried when he watched McGee put her in handcuffs. The boy was weeping still when he and Diane were placed in separate radio cars for the drive to the Atlantic City Police Department on Ventnor Avenue. While Diane was ensconced in a cell on the other side of the building, Peter Jay sat in a waiting room at the juvenile bureau. Imfeld arrived an hour later to question him.
"Rudge said that he had been planning to run away from home two or three weeks before the 30th of August,'' the detective wrote in his summary of their conversation.
"He said that his mom had been verbally abusing him and that nothing he did was right according to her. He also said his dad did nothing to stop what his mom was doing. . . .
When asked when he planned on returning home, he said when he turned eighteen.
Rudge then said that Walden was being physically abused by her husband and planned to leave him.
Rudge then talked Walden into taking him with her when she left.
Rudge told his younger brother of his plans to run away to Mexico in order to throw the police off track while they planned to travel north through Canada.
Rudge said that they traveled north through Canada and visited Thunder Bay, Ontario, Toronto, New York, Pennsylvania and then Atlantic City. The two stayed in various motels and slept in the car at rest stops along the way. When Rudge was asked if he had sexual relations with Diane Walden, he replied, 'No,' and shook his head with a disgusted look on his face.''
While Imfeld searched the BMW, Detective McGee sorted through the contents of Diane Walden's purse, finding
|a pawn ticket from Alex Jewelry,|
|a $ 2361 check from Kinderland,|
|several gold chains,|
|a little more than $ 1000 in cash and|
|the key to room 219 at the Barclay Hotel, an establishment near Bally's that rented rooms by the week.|
Diane not only "admitted staying there'' but asked McGee to remove her possessions and Peter's from their room.
The first thing he noted upon entering room 219, McGee said, was
"two beds, both made, covered with personal items.''
"I was looking for indications of sex,'' McGee conceded, but found none.
The only item of interest was a Press of Atlantic City want-ads section with red circles around a pair of postings for hairdressers and manicurists at Salon New York.
Imfeld's search of the BMW was at least more interesting: Besides
|the Toronto Zoo ticket, there were|
|a book of matches from a pancake house in Sault Ste. Marie;|
|a motel receipt from Fogelsville, Pennsylvania;|
|a Philadelphia Mint souvenir set;|
|a white music box;|
|gray, blue and red pouches filled with expensive jewelry;|
|three photo albums with pictures of Diane's children and|
|the original birth certificates of Kristina and Michael Walden.|
"POLICE FIND the forty-year-old woman and thirteen-year-old lad unharmed, quelling fears of foul play'' read the subhead on the Oregonian's October 9th story, which featured a photograph of Francie Rudge, ecstatic, in front of her house.
"I couldn't be any happier in my life,'' Francie said, "but I'm also apprehensive. I've either got a child that's glad to be home or a kid that wants to be gone. I don't know what's happened between them.''
Detective Imfeld offered reassurance: Not only was the boy in good health, but
"I am 100 percent sure there was nothing sexual,'' the detective told the Oregonian.
Nevertheless, he found himself at a loss, admitted Imfeld, who, after five years with the vice-squad in Atlantic City, figured that he had seen it all.
"I don't understand why a woman who is the operator of a day-care center and has a family of her own would take the boy,'' he said.
Fellow officers in Oregon could offer their counterpart little by way of explanation:
"From all accounts, Diane Walden was a wonderful, super woman who would go beyond the call of duty at her job and at home,'' said the Portland police detective assigned to the case.
Diane "cried softly'' at her hearing in Atlantic City on October 10th, according to the Oregonian, and agreed to waive extradition back to Portland. Her brother Dennis DeLeon drove down from New York to whisper, "Be strong,'' because Diane stood to face a felony charge of first-degree custodial interference in Oregon.
Peter Jay had arrived the night before - the eve of his brother David's eleventh birthday - on an American Airlines flight from Philadelphia in the company of Pete Sr.
The boy had told Jack Imfeld he wanted his father to come alone to Atlantic City.
"I didn't press Peter at all,'' said Pete Sr., who found his son "a bit apprehensive about my reaction.''
After the two exchanged hugs, they went to the park across the street from the police station to talk.
"Peter told me Diane had told him about my previous marriage and about the child,'' his father recalled.
It was something he hadn't confided to even his closest friends, Pete Sr. explained, knowing as he spoke that Diane could have heard it only from Francie.
Peter Jay "had no idea of his notoriety,'' his father remembered and was startled to find the gate for their flight from Philadelphia to Chicago jammed with photographers and reporters. They turned the trip home into "a spy game,'' Pete Sr. said, avoiding the press by ducking into a men's room at O'Hare for a change of clothes.
When they landed in Oregon, TV camera crews from every local station awaited Peter Jay's arrival, as did Francie Rudge, who was hidden from sight in the Port of Portland police office on the third floor.
"I felt like a kid, so joyful and nervous,'' Francie remembered.
Peter, escorted by a trio of officers, smiled tentatively as his mother was led out to meet him on the tarmac. After they exchanged hugs, Francie asked her son,
"Are you glad to be home?''
"Yes,'' Peter told her.
A police car drove the family back to the Rudge home. Peter Jay became an "instant kid'' moments after arriving, Francie said, crouched on the living-room floor with his brothers as they played the new video game David had received for his birthday.
All three boys stayed up till midnight, when Tommy and David asked Peter Jay to spend the night in their room. Francie waited until the younger boys were asleep, then lay down on the bunk bed next to Peter.
"Were you ever going to come home?'' she asked. For sure, Peter said: After they drove to Florida for a week at Disney World, "Diane was going to put me on an airplane and send me back.''
"BOY RETURNS HOME, BUT MANY QUESTIONS STILL UNANSWERED", read the headline on the Oregonian's story the next day.
Peter Jay was interviewed by detectives in Portland on October 11th and repeated - with some embellishment - the story he had told in Atlantic City: It was his idea, not Diane's, to take him; Diane first said
"that was not possible, because it was against the law,'' but "became convinced to take him with her because of a conversation she had with Maggi King,'' who "agreed with Peter that he was being abused by his mother.''
On the day of their departure, Peter said, he and Diane discussed their plans over breakfast at Burger King, returned to the Walden residence to pack their bags, then collected Diane's jewelry and $ 3400 in cash that she had hidden around the house. They stashed the bags in four lockers at Union Station downtown.
After closing Kinderland, they drove to the Best's department store in Beaverton to purchase a Coleman lantern and two sleeping bags. When they climbed back into the BMW, however, Diane began talking to herself, Peter said, asking:
"Are you sure you want to do this, Diane? You have so much here. You're going to lose it all.''
With his encouragement, Peter said, Diane drove to the train station, retrieved their bags, then turned north on I-5 toward the Canadian border. Posing as Diane's son, he pretended to be asleep when they passed through the customs gates into British Columbia.
They drove nearly the full breadth of Canada, Peter said, stopping in Kamloops to pawn their golf clubs. Money was a nagging concern, but in Toronto, Diane splurged, treating him to an Argonauts game in the Sky Dome, then to dinner afterward at the Hard Rock Cafe.
They reentered the U.S. at Niagara Falls, New York, drove through Buffalo to Philadelphia, visited the Liberty Bell, then traveled south through the New Jersey pinelands to Atlantic City, spending several nights in the BMW at Bally's parking garage.
Diane was playing blackjack every day, and
"when she won enough money, we would stay in the hotel,'' Peter said.
Diane was down to less than $ 1000 when she pawned a ring she said was worth $ 5000.
On October 6th they took a day trip to New York City, Peter said, and on the ride back decided that after Disney World, Diane would send him back to Portland,
"then go to Europe to live.''
On one point the boy was perfectly clear:
"Peter Rudge denied any sexual activity and stated that when they would sleep at night in a tent or in the car, they would remain dressed. He stated when they stayed in a motel room, Diane would go into the bathroom and change into her night clothes and then come back out. He also stated that if there was only one bed in the motel room that he slept on the floor in a sleeping bag while she slept in the bed.''
His parents wanted to believe it.
"I never asked pointed questions during the first few weeks after he was back,'' Francie said. "Information came out in bits and pieces. I'd ask, 'Did you camp a lot?' '' "We were walking on eggshells,'' said Pete Sr. "Peter seemed to have a lot inside him, but there was the fear that putting him on the spot might make him leave again.''
Francie was unhappy that Peter Jay
"thought the trip was basically a great adventure,'' as Pete Sr. put it. "Peter was not the same child,'' his mother observed. "He seemed older and wiser.''
When her son returned to Robert Gray, Francie recalled,
"Peter got swarmed by his friends,''
who regarded the prodigal not as a weirdo but rather as their resident celebrity. Every time he turned around there was an invitation to a party, a ski weekend, a basketball game or a concert; girls passed him notes in the hallways or sent friends to tell him how cute he was.
"I was confused,'' Francie admitted. "I felt good that he felt good, but bad he had not a clue what his family had gone through.''
Her confusion increased during the drive home from the family's first meeting downtown with Keith Meisenheimer, the deputy district attorney assigned to prosecute Diane Walden. They were on Fourth Avenue when Peter pointed to an adult bookstore and
"asked if he could go in and get a magazine,'' Francie said. "I got angry, but I was being very lenient, so I didn't push.''
At least Peter Jay was
"beginning to understand how he was deceived,'' Francie told Phil Stanford. "Diane made my son feel that all these normal hassles at home were something wrong. She seduced him away from his family.''
Mrs. Walden was back in Portland by then, arriving October 20th "tan and looking well-rested,'' according to the Oregonian, wearing tennis shorts and carrying a pink purse, flanked by two detectives who drove her directly from the airport to the Justice Center jail.
Diane was released the next day on $ 100,000 bail and pleaded innocent to the felony indictment returned by the Multnomah County grand jury one week later. Trial was set for January 23rd, 1992. The defendant waited at home, a mile from Peter Jay's house, taking the room downstairs where she had slept after leaving her husband's bed back in June.
Part Two: The Trial
Thirteen-year-old Peter and his mother's friend Diane Lyn Walden were missing for forty days. After the police found them, the mystery of their disappearance only deepened.
Part one of this story told of the disappearance of thirteen-year-old Peter Jay Rudge and forty-year-old Diane Walden, a family friend who had employed the boy as a part-time "youth assistant'' at Kinderland, her day-care center in Portland, Oregon.
The two were last seen on the evening of August 30th, 1991, driving in Diane's BMW 735i on their way to play nine holes of golf. Since some cars were later reported to have been burglarized in the parking lot at the golf course, their families first suspected that Peter and Diane may have been victims of foul play.
But a second theory soon emerged. Peter's parents, Pete Sr. and Francie, had been concerned about the "unusually close'' relationship between Peter and Diane and had recently told their son he would have to stop working at Kinderland - and stop seeing Diane - before he started eighth grade in September. Diane's husband, Jerry, had been equally disturbed by the pair's friendship. The families had to face the possibility that Peter and Diane had run away together.
After forty days ....
... the police in Atlantic City, New Jersey, found Diane and Peter, who had been living out of Diane's car, which was parked in a casino garage.
Peter told the police that he had been having problems at home and had asked Diane to take him with her when he learned that she was leaving her husband.
He said they had driven north to Canada, traveled east across the country and reentered the U.S. in Niagara Falls, usually staying in motels and hotels. After they arrived in Atlantic City, Peter said, Diane tried to earn money by playing blackjack. He also said that Diane was planning to send him back to his family, then move to Europe.
He denied any sexual component to their relationship. Diane was charged with first-degree custodial interference, a felony, and was returned to Oregon to face trial. But questions about the true nature of their time together lingered.
PETER JAY'S PARENTS put him in psychotherapy
within a week of his return from Atlantic City.
"I had another chance with my son,'' said Francie, "and I thought it was the most fragile, most important thing I'd ever dealt with in my life.''
Peter Jay's personal therapist was a child psychiatrist, Teresa Shelby, referred by their priest at St. John Fisher church.
read the heading on Dr. Shelby's notes of her first meeting with the boy, on October 12th, 1991.
"That was Peter's description of the trip when he first got back,'' she said. "He was awed by the amount of attention it had gotten; he felt like a celebrity. He was cocky and couldn't understand how upset his family had been.'' Yet he also "looked tired, stressed, shaky,'' said Shelby, observing the bags under his eyes.
The main reason he left, Peter said, was
"my mom loves my brothers more than she loves me.''
He had been feeling
"uncomfortable and tense''
around Francie since returning home, Peter said, and yet
"was confused about whether his mom was so bad,'' Shelby remembered, "because she was so happy to have him back.'' Still, Peter remained "very loyal to Mrs. Walden,'' she noted. "He said the worst thing about the trip was seeing Diane in handcuffs.''
"Change in Thoughts About Diane,''
Dr. Shelby wrote at the top of the page when she met with Peter Jay five days later.
"He said he was getting mad at Diane,'' the doctor recalled. "He felt she may have tricked him. He said he didn't know what had happened, that he had been 'turned to Jello' by Diane and had no mind of his own. He also said maybe his mom was okay after all.''
"Shitballs'' was the heading on Shelby's notes of her October 22nd meeting with Peter Jay. She made it a practice to ask her pubescent patients questions about Halloween pranks at that time of year, the doctor explained, and Peter Rudge replied with
"more graphic descriptions than I'd ever heard.''
The boy's affect was giddy and mischievous - "inappropriately elevated,'' in Dr. Shelby's professional opinion - as he related stories of shit bombs and barf bags heaved at front doors and splattered across porches. "More frank than any kid I'd ever had,'' the doctor said.
"She Wonders If There's More to It,''
read the summary of Dr. Shelby's first meeting with Francie Rudge, on November 1st. Peter Jay's mother described her son before he met Diane Walden as
"good at art and music'' and "never aggressive,'' though with a tendency to be a "couch potato.''
The story that Peter Jay's friend Shaun Fagan had told of once seeing Diane and Peter holding hands and Peter's request after he got back that she let him buy a magazine at an adult book store concerned her, Francie said, but
"she was going to leave it alone, on my advice,'' the doctor remembered.
"Horny Toads, Moaning Like People,''
read the heading on Dr. Shelby's November 5th meeting with Peter Jay, which the doctor regarded as
"our most significant discussion.''
She noticed that while his demeanor was "lighthearted,'' the dark circles under Peter's eyes seemed to be deeper each time she saw him. He wasn't sleeping well, Peter admitted.
"He said his pet toads were keeping him awake,'' the doctor recalled, "that they moaned like people having sex. He called them 'horny toads.' I asked him how he knew what people having sex sounded like. He said, 'Oh, you know, from TV and movies and stuff.' ''
"there was a significant trend toward openness about sexual matters,'' Dr. Shelby noted.
"Movie at School, Furry Dick, Herpes,''
read the next heading on the doctor's notes. Peter veered into a story about some films he had seen in his Sex and AIDS Education class at Robert Gray Middle School.
"He spoke in a joking, risque manner,'' Dr. Shelby said, "but gave me graphic descriptions of genitalia shown in the films, normal and abnormal . . . which is where the furry-dick comment came from.''
Despite what people might imagine, the doctor said,
"it is very unusual for a thirteen-year-old boy to offer such graphic descriptions of sex so openly and easily.''
Yet Peter refused to be prodded:
"Glazes Over When I Get Close to Something,''
Dr. Shelby wrote over her next entry.
"Peter's demeanor changed when I'd ask questions of why he wanted to talk about sex,'' she said. "If I pushed, his expression would change, and his eyes would glaze over, become remote and distant.''
The doctor let her patient steer:
"Fat Like Diane,'' read her next notation.
"He said, I'm fat like Diane,' '' she recalled. " ''We ate a lot on that trip.' ''
It was Dr. Shelby's impression that Peter
"felt as if he had melted and blended into Diane and wasn't sure what thoughts were hers and what were his.''
When she saw Peter next, just before Thanksgiving, the doctor recalled, he wanted to talk not about sex but about a "personal transformation'' that had taken place during the fifth grade.
When he was younger, Peter explained,
"he was always a very good boy, always pleasing his parents and teachers, trying to be perfect,'' the doctor said. "But he got severely depressed when he was ten. This lasted about two weeks. Peter said he came out of it with a decision that he wanted to change, not live for others but for himself. He wanted to be more popular and athletic and didn't care about being a good student anymore. He said this changed his relationships with adults.''
The other thing they discussed during the session, Shelby recalled, was Peter's feeling that he didn't need any more therapy.
"He was embarrassed at school about going to see a psychiatrist; it was hard to explain to his friends. He said he just wanted to be normal; it was nothing personal.''
"Lots of Denial,'' the doctor noted.
During December, she twice asked Peter if there had been "sexual contact'' between him and Diane, Dr. Shelby said, and
"each time he denied any touching.''
Peter did say, though, that Diane was in love with him.
"Too Much MTV,''
read the heading on Dr. Shelby's notes of her first meeting with Peter in 1992.
He had a steady girlfriend now, the boy explained, and somehow Francie had connected his new fascination with the opposite sex to her complaint that he was always watching MTV.
"He said his mother was on his case, that she said he was lazy,'' the doctor remembered, "and also was worried about his being so girl crazy.''
"Mom Wants to Move,'' Dr. Shelby wrote next.
He and Francie each had seen Diane driving past their house during the past week, Peter explained.
"Mom's afraid of Diane, that she might still want to take me.'' Also, "Francie was stressed out by it all, the publicity et cetera,'' Dr. Shelby recalled, and Peter was beginning to feel the same way: "He said there was a lot of pressure in being famous.''
When she saw Peter on January 14th, the last time they were scheduled to meet before Diane's trial, the doctor recalled, the boy began asking for legal advice.
"Peter was very nervous about court,'' Shelby said, "afraid he would be asked questions and might not remember everything. 'What was perjury?' he wanted to know. What would happen if he genuinely forgot something and didn't tell it?
I said I was not a lawyer, but I thought he had to tell the whole truth, to the best of his ability, but that if he genuinely forgot, that was not perjury, I thought. I asked if there was anything specific he was concerned about, and all he'd say was, 'I don't know.' ''
PETER JAY WAS SEEING a second therapist,
a licensed social worker named Leo Munter, in whose office the boy was joined alternately by his mother, his father and his brother David. Leo, as they all called him, worked on a family-system model of human behavior and took the position that he was treating
|not only Peter Jay's "denial and flattened affect'' but also|
|Francie's "impulsiveness'' and|
|Pete Sr.'s "passivity.''|
A lot of what Leo did for the family was broker emotional deals.
During his second meeting with Francie and Peter Jay, on October 30th, Munter recalled, Francie asserted that the "ease'' of her son's re-adjustment was
"illusory, because he was not getting his homework in or catching up on assignments - she said he was into a big social scene and not dealing with the consequences.''
Peter, on the other hand, complained that his mother
"had been going to his school, checking on him,'' said Munter,
who solved the problem by proposing a daily progress sheet that would be signed by each of Peter's teachers. A week later, after Francie said she had seen Diane driving by her house, Leo "explored'' the mother's demand that Peter promise to tell her if Diane made contact.
He spoke to Pete Sr. on four occasions, Munter remembered.
The first time was on October 16th, when Peter Jay's father came in with Francie and
"noted at the end of the session that he hadn't had much of a chance to talk.''
He did not see Pete again until December 17th, Munter remembered, when father and son arrived together for a joint session that began with
"them joking that they knew there was something they were supposed to talk about, but they couldn't remember what it was.''
It came to Pete Sr. a moment later: Peter Jay was supposed to be at the library doing research after school but instead got on a bus to talk with some girls and not only ended up stranded at the Transit Center but forgot his book bag as well. Pete seemed to see at least a little humor in the escapade, but Francie had "lost it,'' her husband said.
Munter saw Pete Sr. again on January 14th, when the father came in with both Peter Jay and David, who did most of the talking, describing a lunch at McDonald's where Diane and Pete spent all their time playing with each other's french fries, ignoring him. David said Diane had been "unfair,'' Munter recalled.
"He felt that a family friend had become Peter's special friend.''
Peter Jay, the therapist remembered, had little to say that day.
The therapist spoke to the boys' father a fourth time three days later, on January 17th, a Friday night, when Pete Sr. called him at home, Munter remembered:
"Pete said, 'The worst has happened.' I gathered that what we were talking about was sex.''
He had been
"waiting for the details of the trip with Diane,'' Pete Sr. said, since flying to Atlantic City to retrieve his son three months earlier. "I had thoughts about sex but no great concern,'' he recalled. "A lot of people, it was the first question they asked.''
One week before Mrs. Walden's scheduled trial, however,
"I initiated a conversation,'' the father said. "The purpose was to let Peter know the seriousness of a trial, of testifying under oath.''
Peter Jay knew this was going to be a serious discussion when his father asked him to step into the office.
"I said, 'There's a couple of things I want you to understand,' '' Pete Sr. remembered. "I said he might be asked questions not previously asked [before the grand jury] and that I wanted him to answer truthfully. I said, 'People in court are good at recognizing if you're telling the truth or not.'
Then I mentioned the Shaun Fagan story of holding hands.'' Peter Jay said it had never happened.
"I asked him, 'Why would Shaun make up such a story?' '' Pete recalled. " 'It doesn't make sense.' Peter was squirming. He said, 'Maybe I can't remember.'
I could see he was almost bursting. Something wanted to get out, but he couldn't get it out.
I asked, 'Was there more to this relationship, Peter, then we know about?' His eyes welled up with tears. 'Would the press have to know?' he asked.''
Pete Sr. called Leo Munter to set up an "emergency session'' but was undecided about contacting the district attorney's office. Peter Jay was scheduled to join a group of classmates for a ski trip to Mount Hood the next morning. His father drove him to Robert Gray to catch the bus at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, pulling into a parking space next to the one occupied by his friend Mark Popma.
When Pete slid into the front seat next to him, Mark Popma remembered,
"he looked like he hadn't slept all night.''
"I made small talk first,'' Pete recalled, "then said, 'Mark, I've got to tell you what happened last night.' ''
Popma advised his friend not to tell the prosecutor or the police.
"I thought [a sex trial] would harm the family even more than they had been harmed,'' he said, "that doubts would be cast upon them as parents.''
"Mark told me, 'This is something that could hurt Peter socially,' '' Pete Sr. remembered. "I said, 'What about somebody else?' He said, To hell with somebody else - Peter is No. 1.' ''
Later that same day, the priest from St. John Fisher, Father Forbes, called about catechism classes for the boys, Pete recalled.
'"I told him what had come out. He said I should report this. That felt inside like the right thing to do.''
Peter Jay met with Leo Munter on Sunday.
"I told Peter I wanted to take notes,'' Munter said, "but I wasn't going to ask any questions, because what we were talking about would later come out in court. So he just started talking.''
THE FIRST TOUCH ...
... took place in the BMW, while he and Diane were driving east on the Mount Hood Highway looking for a golf course in Gresham, Peter recalled.
He was wearing shorts, and Diane was resting her hand on his bare thigh, something she had done a few times before. On this occasion, though, Mrs. Walden slid her fingers a few inches higher and
"touched my penis on the outside of my clothes,'' Peter remembered.
Diane "asked if I liked it,'' said Peter, who couldn't recall his answer, only that "I felt kind of awkward.''
He felt more awkward still when Diane "took my hand and put it on her breast,'' Peter recalled. "I left it there, then after a while I put my hand down again.''
Mrs. Walden "asked if I'd ever had sexual contact with anybody,'' Peter remembered, "I told her no, which was true. . . . Diane said sex was natural and enjoyable.''
Peter wasn't sure about the natural part but became convinced of the enjoyable aspects, he said, when Diane stroked him again - "three or four more times'' - while they were riding her BMW.
"She would touch my penis, outside my clothing and inside,'' he said. "She would just kind of move it around. She would ask if it felt good.''
He and Diane were "just friends'' at that point, Peter explained:
"It was fun to be around her. There were, like, no limits.''
With Mrs. Walden, he and his brothers "could do whatever we wanted,'' Peter said, "and Diane paid for everything.''
And when the two of them were alone, Mrs. Walden "spoke to me like a grown-up,'' Peter recalled. "She was glad we were such close friends.''
"I didn't know what to feel about what had happened.''
The two friends got a lot closer one day at lunchtime when Diane took him to her house to collect some cold drinks for a field trip, Peter remembered, while Jerry was off shopping for supplies at Costco.
"After we pulled the drinks out of the freezer, Diane went into her room and I followed,'' he said. "She laid down and asked me to lay next to her. Then she pulled her pants down. Then she helped me pull mine down. Then she helped put my penis in her vagina. I was on the bottom.'' Diane laid a towel under them, but it wasn't needed, Peter said. "I didn't ejaculate.''
Afterward, "I was kind of guilty feeling around my parents,'' Peter remembered, "because it wasn't right.''
Also, he "felt kind of strange around Diane,'' Peter said. "I thought she was my friend, but I didn't know what to feel about what had happened.''
It happened again about a week later on the field trip to Seattle with Diane and the kids from Kinderland, Peter said, at the YMCA there, where he and Diane had shared a room with a boy named Michael Elmer.
"When Michael was asleep, she asked me to come over to her bed,'' Peter recalled. Again, "there was no ejaculation,'' he said.
The third time was the charm
It was at Diane's house again, in the master bedroom:
"She prepared the same way,'' Peter said, "put the towel under us, took my pants off, took hers off. But this time she had me get on top. And I put my own penis inside.''
The warm itching that had been sex up till now boiled out of him in a hot second Peter could feel for hours afterward. And yet even as he discovered what all the mystery and insinuation surrounded, Peter recalled, "I felt very uneasy and embarrassed - I didn't want to tell anyone.''
It was only after they had sex a few times that Diane began to confide in him, Peter remembered:
"She said Jerry was beating her, and that made me mad. . . . I felt kind of sorry for her, because her life was so bad.''
Things weren't so terrific in his family either, though, according to Diane.
"She said my mom was only staying with my dad because she couldn't support herself,'' Peter remembered. "That made me feel sad and bad. I was thinking that if my mom ever made a lot of money, she'd leave my dad.''
There was a lot about his family Peter didn't know, according to Mrs. Walden: "Diane told me my mom had another boyfriend [before her marriage], who beat her. She said my dad had another wife and had a child, who he let be adopted. She said [a family friend] loved my mom and had an affair with her. . . . It made me mad at my parents. I didn't know any of this or why they were keeping it from me.''
Peter claimed that Diane also said his parents smoked marijuana, adding, "That bothered me a lot.'' He took to sniffing the alligator clips Pete Sr. used to connect wires in his alarm systems, checking for the residue of pot.
When Francie began to object to the time he and Mrs. Walden spent together, Peter recalled:
"Diane told me my mom was schizophrenic, that she had two personalities. She called her a bitch and said she was abusing me mentally.''
The frequency of their intercourse increased over the summer, Peter said:
"Most of the sex was in the afternoons. We found different reasons to go to her house. Diane would leave the window open in the bathroom, so we'd know if anyone pulled into the driveway. A couple of times Diane would jump off the bed and run to the window to look and see if anyone was there. If they were, we'd just get up and leave, pretend like nothing happened.''
He knew his neighbor very well indeed by the middle of July, Peter said:
"Diane's favorite position was with her legs over my shoulders. She asked me to touch her breasts, to squeeze her nipples.''
They began to talk about "running away'' at the beginning of August, Peter remembered, when Francie made it clear she was going to stand behind her decision
"to cut off the relationship when school started.''
"I felt two different feelings about that,'' Peter said. "I was kind of sad and kind of relieved, relieved because I wouldn't always have to be hiding.''
He wondered what other people - especially the kids at school - would think if they knew what he had been doing with his summer vacation, Peter said. It was to test reaction to the idea of "sex with an older person'' that he told his schoolmate Jared Smith the story about having sex with a twelve-year-old when he was ten, Peter explained. Jared's reaction - "Hey, man, that's cool'' - reassured him.
Diane never once
"mentioned Jerry as a reason to leave,'' Peter remembered. "She wanted to go because of the way my mom was treating me and also because my mom was going to split us up.''
His own feelings "went back and forth'' during August, Peter said. "One day I was glad to be getting away from my mom, and another day I was sad to be going away from my family.''
The decision to leave seemed to solidify, Peter recalled, when Diane "said my grandma called and told her that it was really healthy that Diane and I were such good friends, that she wanted to Diane to stay in my life and that my mom was really bad.''
While deciding upon a destination,
"we talked first about Hawaii,'' Peter said, "then about Mexico. But Diane said she couldn't make money in Mexico. We decided to go by the southern border of Canada, then back down into the United States and live on the East Coast. We were not planning on coming back.''
Money and the lists
Diane was socking away money in small amounts she didn't think Jerry would notice, and they both began making lists of the things they would need. As for the brown contact lenses that would disguise his blue eyes,
"she wanted for me to get them so we could cross the border without being recognized,'' Peter recalled. "And also so I looked like Michael [Walden] and could use his birth certificate.''
The part about going to the train station and stashing their gear in lockers on the morning of August 30th was true, Peter said. They went back after closing Kinderland, as he had said earlier.
"I was really sad about leaving my dad,'' the boy said, and as they drove north through Washington State toward the British Columbia border, "I was sad about my mom, too, but also happy because I would be healthier.''
They slept that first night at a rest stop just across the border, Peter recalled, and in the morning Diane asked if he wanted to turn back.
"I said I didn't want to, because I still thought my mom was abusing me,'' he said.
Diane asked again the next day, and then on the third morning
"said it was the last day possible when she could [take me back] without being arrested.''
After that, they never discussed going home again, Peter said, although Diane did say several times that no matter what happened,
"she'd lose Kinderland, and her kids would hate her.''
He and Diane had a big argument in Canada, Peter said:
Their plan was to stay together, posing as mother and son, until he turned eighteen, the boy explained, then get married.
But one day on the road between Lake Louise and Calgary,
"I said I might want to marry someone my own age,'' he remembered, and "Diane was mad at me for a day and a half.''
When the two made up, though, their relations improved dramatically, from Peter's perspective.
"The oral sex began,'' he said. "Diane's mouth on my penis. Two or three times a week.''
'Never talk about ...'
Diane made it clear that their physical relationship was one thing he must never talk about, Peter remembered:
"She said, whatever happened, I couldn't say that she and I had sexual contact, because she would face more time in jail. I said I wouldn't tell. I didn't want anything to happen to her. I thought of her as one of my best friends.''
By the time they crossed back into the U.S. at Niagara Falls, money had become an issue, Peter recalled:
"We were down to $ 2000 or less by then.''
In Pennsylvania, Diane checked the want ads but couldn't find anything she liked. The plan now was to work their way down the East Coast to Florida, then ride bikes to Texas. It was Diane who suggested stopping to gamble in Atlantic City, Peter said,
"as a way to make more money.''
They spent fourteen nights there, four of them at Bally's Park Place Hotel and Casino, leaving only to take a bus trip into New York City, where
"we ate lunch in a restaurant that was like a little apartment,''
Peter remembered, then walked to St. Patrick's Cathedral to light candles and pray for their families. Diane won big at blackjack that night, Peter recalled, and they took a midnight stroll together on the Boardwalk afterward. For the first time, the boy suggested he was feeling homesick.
"I said something about missing my dad's teriyaki steaks,'' he remembered.
Diane was arrested the next afternoon
He felt sad and sick and "really scared,'' wondering what would happen to both of them, but to Diane especially, Peter explained, which was why he told the police in Atlantic City
"what Diane told me to tell.''
The part "about begging her to take me was a story Diane gave me,'' he said, "so she wouldn't get as bad a punishment. Diane said to say she didn't take me, that I would have committed suicide or run away if she didn't.''
PETER JAY TESTIFIED ...
a second time before the Multnomah County grand jury on January 21st and 22nd, 1992.
A new indictment of Diane Walden was returned on January 30th, charging the woman with ten counts of second-degree sexual abuse and ten counts of contributing to the deliquency of a minor.
Diane was saved from a charge of statutory rape by a quirk of timing and semantics, according to her prosecutor. The language of Oregon's sex laws had been changed in September, less than a month after Mrs. Walden and Peter Rudge had left the state, Keith Meisenheimer, the deputy district attorney assigned to prosecute Diane Walden, explained:
"The way it read before, only a man could be accused of raping a woman or a girl. The statutes have been corrected, politically, to read 'a person' who either forces sex or has sex with a minor under the age of consent.''
Sex with a minor under age fourteen was now second-degree rape in Oregon, for which a convicted criminal could face up to ten years in state prison. The statutes under which Diane Walden had been charged, however, were misdemeanors carrying a maximum term of one year in county jail.
Mrs. Walden's indictment as a sex offender ...
... was reported on January 31st in the Oregonian, which informed its readers it would no longer identify the boy, since it was the paper's policy to "not print the names of suspected victims of sex crimes.''
The move to high ground smacked of hypocrisy, considering that not only the Oregonian but every other newspaper and television station in Portland had been prominently displaying photographs of Peter and his parents for five months.
Diane's name and picture, of course, continued to appear in the newspaper. She pleaded innocent to the new charges on February 3rd; three days later she requested a return of the money posted for her bail so that it might be used to "investigate the new charges'' against her.
News of the sex allegations landed like a bomb at Kinderland, where Jerry Walden - now listed as the sole owner of the preschool - watched an already shaky situation deteriorate.
Diane's husband had known of the new charges since January 20th, when a pair of detectives showed up at the school to question him.
"We expected this,'' Jerry said. "It's a lie.''
When one of the detectives began to ask about the towel closet outside the master-bedroom door, Mr. Walden turned and walked away.
By the time the grand jury returned its new indictment against Diane, Jerry had prepared a letter for Kinderland parents, assuring them that all was well. The names of every teacher on the school's staff appeared at the top of the letter, but not one of them would sign it.
Kinderland "had become a place of permanent tension,''
said the school's Montessori teacher, Victoria Adams, who submitted her resignation immediately after seeing the letter.
Kinderland's office staff, remaining loyal to the Waldens, began eavesdropping on Adams's conversations.
"Victoria was very open with the parents,'' said Paige McClellan, Diane's assistant at Kinderland. "She'd pull them outside to talk, and then the next day they'd withdraw their kids. It never failed. We would watch and take notes.''
By the time of Adams's departure, only two of the twenty-one students in the Montessori program remained.
Mary Triplett, the school's best-loved teacher, was
"terminated'' by Jerry Walden "for talking to parents and staff openly, and in front of the children, about how she just couldn't work in this place anymore,'' McClellan explained.
"THE CASE OF STATE V. WALDEN'
... has penetrated the consciousness of this community and generated a degree of interest unequaled in my experience,'' Diane's attorney Marc Blackman wrote in a pleading for "more extensive [questioning] than usual during jury selection.''
The request was denied, but Blackman got lucky with his first question to the members of the jury, about whether any of them had
"ever been involved in a situation reported in the press.''
Yes, indeed, answered a black woman in the third row, who recalled watching a dozen police officers "beat some boys'' from her neighborhood, then seeing the incident reported on TV as a "riot.''
They would be asked to decide between "two diametrically opposed accounts'' of what had taken place between Diane and Peter Jay, Blackman advised the jury when he made his opening statement on April 8th:
|The first story was of a "typical, normal'' thirteen-year-old boy "seduced away from his all-American family by this evil woman'';|
|the second was of a "young boy who was very troubled,'' finding in Diane Walden "the mother he needed.''|
"Your problem,'' Blackman told the jurors, "is that both are Peter Rudge's versions.''
Describing his client as "the first wave of superwoman: wife, mother, businesswoman, breadwinner,'' the attorney portrayed the Rudges as "a family in disarray and dysfunction'' who had helped their oldest son concoct a "rehearsed statement designed for a purpose.''
Blackman, recently named as one of Oregon's top three criminal attorneys in a national survey, made it known he intended to try this case on a single issue:
"Was it sex?''
Only two people could ever know for certain, and the jury would not wait long to hear from the first of them. Peter Jay arrived in court the next day accompanied by his father, wearing Air Jordans with baggy blue shorts that exposed his chubby knees and a Brooklyn Dodgers jersey over a white turtleneck that brought out the pink in his plump cheeks. "His mom must have dressed him,'' whispered a woman in the front row.
Though he had testified twice already before the grand jury, Peter produced several startling revelations, describing for the first time sex in the room at the Seattle YMCA, only a few feet from the bed where Michael Elmer slept ("I just remembered it about a week ago,'' he explained), recalling that in Atlantic City he had watched porno movies with Diane's "permission,'' then confirming that he and Mrs. Walden had agreed - if she was arrested - to rendezvous three days after her release on bail at the Hoot Owl Market and make another run for the border.
Blackman baited the boy on cross-examination, pointing out that Peter originally told police Diane fondled him for the first time on a field trip to the Rainbow Trout Farm and that the same detective wrote in his notes of this conversation that Peter and Diane engaged in sex
"three or four times a day,'' rather than "three or four times a week,''
as the boy had testified in court.
The attorney presented a copy of the report published during early January in Willamette Week that had Francie Rudge telling a reporter her son would not speak to the press because of suggestions that he and Diane were involved "romantically.''
It was Peter's mother at whom Blackman aimed his ugliest insinuations, asking her son,
|"Did your mom walk around the house naked a lot?'' ("Yes''),|
|"Did your mom pinch your butt a lot?'' ("No''),|
|"Did your mom continue to bathe you even when you were in the sixth grade?'' ("No!'')|
|"Did it bother you that your mom wanted you to rub cream on her back when she came out of the shower?'' ("She didn't do that''), even drawing on an Oregonian column from six months earlier to ask the boy,|
|"How did you feel when your mom got in bed with you'' to talk? ("Fine'').|
It was when Pete Sr. took the stand that Blackman brought out his heavy artillery, the "confidential'' notes kept by Leo Munter and Teresa Shelby of every conversation they had recorded with Peter Jay, Pete Sr., Francie and David since October 11th of the previous year, obtained by the defense with a surprise subpoena shortly before the trial began.
With the therapists' notes on the table in front of him, Blackman dropped his first bomb on the jury: Back in the sixth grade Peter Jay had "attempted suicide.''
(Depressed about his grades, Peter explained, "I tried to slit my wrists with a cut-open pop can but barely made a mark.'')
Prosecutor Meisenheimer had some offensive weapons of his own, among them the optometrist who remembered that Peter Jay had come in alone to purchase a pair of tinted "cosmetic'' contact lenses but paid with twenty-dollar bills from a white envelope handed to him by a woman ("That's her'') who came in later to collect the boy.
Even better was Doug MacEwan, the Kinderland kid who described hearing Alan Kennedy, Diane's nephew and a teacher at the school, complain about her "thirteen-year-old boyfriend.'' He remembered also a remark made by Mrs. Walden during a school beach outing when the subject of nude beaches came up. Doug testified:
"Diane said, 'Peter and I see each other naked all the time.' ''
Doug's composure held up better than that of Shaun Fagan, who began to collapse under the gravity of it all as soon as he was asked to raise his right hand and swear to tell the truth.
The problematic nature of a sex trial in which many of the key witnesses were children achieved comic pathos when Peter's pal from Robert Gray, Rochelle Stetenrodden, took the stand to describe how her friend confided the true nature of his relationship with Diane Walden,
"right before it came out of the press.''
Peter Jay said sex hadn't started until after he and Diane left Portland, Rochelle remembered, but
"I didn't ask about details - I just asked if she forced him.''
Both therapists were called as witnesses,
|Teresa Shelby for the prosecution and|
|Leo Munter by the defense.|
Peter Jay "said he had blocked [the memory of sex] out for a while,'' Dr. Shelby testified, but "felt better'' after telling. Although "very confused about Diane,'' Peter "did not hate her,'' the doctor went on; the boy still had a hard time seeing what Mrs. Walden had done to hurt him.
His worst fear before telling was that the kids at school - especially the girls - "might think I'm gross,'' Peter had told the doctor. His friends were still behind him, Peter told Dr. Shelby on February 4th, shortly after news of the sex charges was published in the Oregonian, but he wondered if fathers would want him going out with their daughters now that they knew about him.
On cross-examination, Blackman scored on Shelby by suggesting she had "come up'' with a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder for Peter Jay in order to guarantee payment by the family's insurance company.
It was the doctor who made a fool of the attorney, however, when Blackman asked her to support his contention that
"Diane Walden's so-called favorite position for sex'' was "not possible.''
If a woman were to put her legs over a man's shoulders, the attorney asked,
"where would that place the man's crotch in relation to the woman's?''
Unable for a moment to believe Blackman was serious, Shelby finally answered, "Very close,'' in a deadpan so perfect it brought the house down. Blackman still didn't get it, though:
"Definitely not an experiment you should try at home,''
he advised the members of the jury and was even more addled when they, too, laughed at him.
However limited might be his experience in some areas, Blackman compensated with that combination of combative tenacity and ruthless logic that makes so many unpleasant people successful lawyers.
With Leo Munter's notes entered into evidence, Blackman was free to ask witness after witness if they would agree that Francie Rudge
"overreacts to a wide number of circumstances, leveling punishments inappropriate to the circumstances''
or whether they had noticed her
|tendency to "catastrophize.''|
Pete Sr. was grilled about his statements that
"Francie's style has cost her friends'' and that his wife could be "demanding, controlling and occasionally difficult to live with.''
When Blackman called Munter himself to the stand, however, the therapist responded to the attorney's provocations with the assertion that the Rudges were a
"strong and well-bonded family'' who handled their "difficulties'' better than most.
In Munter's notes, Blackman had discovered that back in January, when Peter Jay first described sex with Diane, the boy began by saying it started after they left Portland:
"We'd be in a motel and she'd ask if I wanted to be in the same bed with her. I'd say no. She'd say nothing would happen.'' Peter went on this way for a few minutes, Munter recalled, "then suddenly he told me, 'To tell the truth, it happened a lot before we left.' ''
Sexually abused minors commonly changed their stories, Munter explained: "Disclosure by children is usually in stages.'' Yes, Peter Jay was "uncomfortable that Diane was seen as such an offender,'' Munter agreed with Blackman, but "children commonly feel responsible for what happened.''
A week before Diane Walden testified, ...
... the defense strategy was clear. Paige McClellan and Alan Kennedy, both still employed at Kinderland, denied having made any remarks about Diane's "thirteen-year-old boyfriend'' or "an apartment'' where she took him, but each remembered quite clearly a number of occasions when Peter Jay complained about "family problems.''
"He was frustrated by his mother being on his back, yelling, complaining about the time he spent at school,'' said Kennedy, who recalled that his aunt was "concerned about Peter's welfare'' after hearing Francie "call him 'little asshole.' ''
More than a half-dozen Kinderland parents took the stand to tell the jury what a "kind,'' "caring'' and "generous'' woman Diane was. Several neighbors said they had stopped by the Walden house unannounced during the previous summer and never once found Diane alone there with Peter Rudge.
Jerry Walden preceded his wife to the stand to tell a story about an afternoon in August when he had been helping Peter Sr. install a computer in his office. Francie, upset about a leaky washing machine,
"came running in and told Pete Sr. she wanted a divorce and he could keep the kids,'' Diane's husband said. "Pete said he wanted a divorce, and she could keep the kids.''
"That's a lie,''
Pete Sr., sitting in the second row of the spectator seats, said loudly enough for everyone in the courtroom to hear.
It scarcely mattered: There was little but pity or contempt left to a man whose wife had left him for a thirteen-year-old boy. Jerry's chin began to quiver and his eyes to tear when he was asked to name his children, and he broke down completely when Blackman asked for a description of his wife's menstrual cycle. The jurors glared at Meisenheimer when the prosecutor attempted cross-examination.
Diane Walden, who hadn't looked once at her husband during his testimony, followed Jerry to the stand and proceeded to describe how she had tried - unsuccessfully - to leave him back in 1986.
"It was my feeling that he'd never give up,'' she said, explaining their reconciliation.
Asked by her attorney about the allegations of sexual contact with the Rudge boy, Mrs. Walden turned to the jury as she answered,
with a shake of her head to each question about the incidents Peter had described.
Diane wore a black velvet dress with a yoke of Irish lace and spoke in the breathy, enraptured contralto of a young novitiate.
"That's not her voice,''
said Steve Metz, a former director at Kinderland, who was listening from a spectator seat. Phil Lucht, a former Kinderland aide who had testified for the prosecution earlier, agreed:
"This isn't the Diane I know. Her voice is usually kind of harsh.''
The simpers and sighs lent lurid emphasis to testimony that became perhaps the most encyclopedic description of feminine hygiene ever entered onto the record in a U.S. courtroom.
Sores, cysts, boils and "cheesy discharge'' resulting from the yeast infections that were "a chronic condition for me'' made sex an unappealing prospect much of the time, said Diane,
who submitted records of medical treatment that dated back more than ten years.
Her claims of protracted - twelve to fourteen days at a time - and "very painful'' menstruation were supported with receipts for purchases of "super-absorbent'' tampons ("industrial strength'' was Pete Sr.'s stage whisper) in amounts of up to $ 100 at a time during the summer of 1991, making Mrs. Walden's, her attorney asserted,
"the best-documented period in history.''
Then there was her abortion in February of 1991, said Diane, who offered her doctor's report into evidence. As a Catholic, Mrs. Walden explained, the termination of pregnancy had been devastating to her emotionally, and on those very few occasions when she engaged in sex with her husband afterward,
"I insisted on condoms.''
Peter Jay, Blackman would point out, said he and Diane had not used birth control.
Peter also failed to mention (though he was not asked) that Diane had two long scars on her abdomen, one from C sections and the other from a gall-bladder operation. Photographs were presented to the jurors.
"This must be the worst part of the whole trial for them,'' said Pete Sr.
The worst part for him was Diane's description of Pete's
"schizophrenic,'' "shrill'' and "selfish'' wife. While Mr. Rudge was "a good guy'' and "a godsend to his sons,'' Mrs. Walden said, the boys "hated'' Francie and lived in fear of her "horrible temper.''
Peter Jay and David "said it was a family joke that Mom is PMS seven days a week,'' she recalled, and complained that Francie's favorite epithet for them was "asshole.''
Peter said "he'd wake up to her screaming,'' Diane went on, and had called her several times at school in the morning so she could hear his mother "howling'' in the background.
Peter spoke "many times'' of suicide that summer, Diane swore, and pleaded with her to take him along when she confided plans to run away. She refused at first, Mrs. Walden said, then wavered when - "about a week before we left''
Peter broke down while they were in the Kinderland van, crawling under the seat in back and
"bawling at me not to leave him.''
The decision was made when she talked to Francie's mother, Maggi King, who
"validated the complaints I heard,'' saying "she was very sad about how cruel Francie was to Peter.''
People might say now that she had used poor judgment, Mrs. Walden said, but if she had not taken Peter
"I know he would not be alive today.''
"I believe Peter's life was served,'' she added. "He's alive right now and at home with his parents, who are getting help for themselves.''
It had registered with her attorneys, if not with Mrs. Walden, that no matter what they believed about her relationship with Francie's son, the jurors might not forgive the abandonment of her own children.
"It never occurred to me that either family would think we were dead,'' Diane said. "My kids knew. . . . I'd tell them: 'One of these days, I don't think I'll be here. Just know that I love you.' ''
To crown the mountain of documentary evidence offered in support of Diane's story, her attorneys were able to obtain receipts from motels in Canada showing that she and Peter had stayed in rooms with two beds. A motel manager in Toronto submitted records showing that after returning from the Hard Rock Cafe to discover she and the boy had been moved to a room with only one bed, Mrs. Walden insisted that he bring in a rollaway for Peter. Even better, the maid at the Barclay Hotel in Atlantic City, testified she had walked into room 219 one afternoon to find Mrs. Walden and "the boy'' asleep in separate beds.
At least as remarkable, Jerry had saved every check he used to pay for school supplies at Costco during the summer of 1991, each one stamped with the date and time it was written, and Diane's own Daily Activities log from Kinderland was presented to occasion when she was supposed to have been with Peter Jay.
More compelling still was evidence that the field trip to Seattle when Diane pulled him into her bed at the YMCA, according to Peter, had taken place not in June, as the boy testified, but in March.
In his summation, Meisenheimer appealed ...
... to the jury's good sense: Peter Jay's vacillations and ambivalence should make him more, rather than less, credible, the prosecutor contended.
Peter had spoken many kind words about Diane on the stand and seemed to blame himself as much as he did this woman who was three times his age. And while there were problems with his recollection of time and place, Meisenheimer conceded,
"the details in [Peter's] description were way, way beyond what you would get with a false accusation.''
As for Diane Walden,
"What powerful forces would cause a woman [with children of her own and a thriving business] to abscond with a thirteen-year-old boy?'' the prosecutor asked: Sex was the only explanation.
Diane not only "lied about how her own children suffered,'' the prosecutor noted, but "attempted to put responsibility for her decision to leave on a child who was twelve years old when she met him.''
Everyone in the courtroom had seen Mrs. Walden demonstrate the depth of "her hatred for Francie Rudge,'' Meisenheimer pointed out, and yet Diane chose to remain on friendly terms with Mrs. Rudge right up until August of 1991:
"Why? Because it was her access to this child.''
The case against his client, Blackman countered, was the testimony of one person, Peter Jay Rudge.
"We don't have a situation where the DA can say, 'This isn't a boy who would ever lie,' '' the attorney argued. "We know he has before. What we have here is a young boy who at some point is not telling the truth.''
Blackman's best visual was a grid of overlays labeled "Costco,'' "Yeast,'' "Menses'' and "Field Trips,'' used as a prop for his assertion that there had been only a few days during the summer of 1991 when Diane Walden could have had sex with Peter Rudge.
Only "a nut, a workaholic, an overcommitted person'' like Diane would be able to prove she hadn't been "having nooners with a thirteen-year-old boy'' on a certain day almost one year earlier, Blackman said. "Could you?'' he asked the jurors, then pointed to Diane. "Does this woman strike you as someone with overactive ovaries?''
The real question at this trial was "Why would Peter change his mind?''
Blackman told the jurors. He would tell them why:
This was "a bright kid carrying the burden of his family's anguish on his shoulders,'' a boy who "knows what his parents want.''
"If you were Francie Rudge, would you want to believe your son left you for a better mom?'' Blackman asked.
The fears of a "passive'' father and a "self-absorbed'' mother had been "working on Peter'' since his return from Atlantic City, Diane's attorney contended: In the end, the boy had decided it was worth the sacrifice of Diane Walden to "be one again with his family.''
SUBSEQUENT BUT PARALLEL TO THE DEBATE ...
back in the summer of 1991 about whether the missing pair were dead or had run off - and to the contention that autumn among those who suspected Diane and Peter were lovers and those who insisted it was not possible - was the argument in the spring of 1992 between
|those of the opinion that the boy had been the victim of sexual abuse (a majority of them women) and|
|others (mostly men) who believed, basically, that the kid had gotten lucky.|
The feelings of the former group were articulated most prominently in the Oregonian by Pete Sanford's less engaging but more politically correct counterpart, Margie Boule. She had been shopping for a new television back in October, Boule wrote during the Walden trial, when the news broke that Diane and Peter had been found in New Jersey.
"Diane Walden's face was on a hundred screens,'' she wrote, as the woman was led in handcuffs from the Atlantic City Police Departmentto a waiting squad car. "Some people just laughed.''
Boule quoted a fellow customer whose reaction was
" 'Boy that kid had some trip. What an education.'
'' Hearing this, she "felt sick,'' Boule said. "If a forty-year-old man had run off with a girl in seventh grade, most people would have assumed the guy was a pervert.'' And yet "people all over - even in the Oregonian newsroom - are saying the boy 'must have been in heaven' if he had sex with a woman his mother's age.''
Psychotherapists doing research in the field of childhood trauma, sexual abuse in particular, agree with Boule that a boy seduced by a grown woman could be every bit as damaged by the experience as a girl forcibly taken by an older man.
"Many of us define any kind of coercion - including manipulation and seduction - of a child into sex as rape,'' said Dr. Lenore Terr, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco Medical School, regarded by many as the leading expert in the field. The long-term effects of a "rape'' experienced as pleasurable, however, most commonly have to do with what therapists refer to discreetly as "over-stimulation.''
As Terr puts it, "Some people become so overexcited about what happened to them at an early age that they think that's the only thing they want to duplicate.''
The primal wound to a child of either gender, however, has less to do with sexuality than with empowerment, according to Terr.
It's "being on somebody else's program this way that can really cause a person to suffer afterward,'' she said. "What you're left with is this awful sense of helplessness, of not being in control of your own future. What happens to children is that they have the sense that others - maybe the postman who comes to the door or a teacher in school - have ideas, plans for them.''
The "need to repeat'' is a prevailing pattern found in young people who have been preyed upon by adults, Terr added. Replication of a profoundly disorienting experience is "inherent in trauma,'' according to Terr:
"People need to repeat in small doses that which was originally beyond their control. It's the expression of a human need to try to fix things. If you sweep away a person's defenses, he will retroactively keep trying to defend himself and work it out. The trouble is, it will never work out that way because we all don't get to live a thousand years, and so we can't get enough tries.''
The jury hearing the case of 'State v. Walden' needed only a day of deliberation to deliver a verdict local TV news broadcasts described as "startling'' and "shocking'':
|Diane was guilty of custodial interference in the first degree, a felony,|
|but had been acquitted of having sexual intercourse with a minor, while the jurors were deadlocked on the charge of sexual touching.|
"A lot of the evidence was contrary to the young man's story,''
said jury foreman William Fronk, who cited the motel receipts showing that Mrs. Walden had rented rooms with two beds and the discrepancies in Peter Jay's recollection of when, if not where, the sex had taken place.
Meisenheimer, a competent prosecutor whose only failing was his inability to summon up the memory of how it felt to be thirteen years old, said his office would "consider carefully'' whether to retry Diane on the sexual-touching charge.
To his credit, the prosecutor's principal concern was what a second trial would do to the Rudge family, as Meisenheimer acknowledged when he announced four weeks later that the sex charges against Diane Walden would be dropped.
"It's rare when a person convicted of a Class B felony . . . walks out of the courthouse feeling like a victor,'' the Oregonian noted.
If Diane felt like a winner, the Rudges felt as though they were the ones who had been on trial. What was interesting was that in the crucible of examination, the couple had traded roles:
Francie, whose emotional extravagance had subjected her to more invasive scrutiny than ever was directed at Diane Walden, became the model of demurity and decorum, holding her husband's hand as she insisted that the victims in this case she felt worst for were Diane's own children.
"I hear Kristina is crying every day at school,'' Francie said. "When this is finally over, I'm going to send her a letter, to remind her that none of us gets to choose who our parents are.''
Passive Pete, meanwhile, had stepped forward to speak for the family, no longer merely anguished but now angry as well. After hearing his wife, the woman described by Leo Munter as
"someone who carries a strong commitment to her family, carries it in an almost physical sense,''
portrayed in court as a cruel and self-indulgent hag who had driven her oldest son to the brink of suicide, Pete said, he was barely angrier at Diane than at the attorney who had helped her tailor a story to take advantage of every innuendo or rumor available.
"Everything in this case got twisted around so it was our fault,''
Pete told Judge Stephen S. Walker when offered the chance to speak at Diane's sentencing hearing on June 12th.
Pete wanted the judge to know that his son was not the same boy he had been a year earlier.
Peter Jay "lacks the smile he had before [Diane] came on the scene,'' his father told the judge. "He used to smile openly to adults. That's gone.''
Pete seemed to be only venting his frustration with the legal process at this point, however: State sentencing guidelines in Oregon suggested that a defendant should do no more than ninety days in jail for first-time custodial-interference conviction, with probation the more probable imposition.
Standing before Judge Walker in the aftermath of Pete Sr.'s speech, however, Diane seemed to sense that her case would be different. Showing none of the jubilation or defiance she had demonstrated six weeks earlier when the jury's verdicts were returned, struggling so pathetically for speech that the words came out in syllables separated by sobs and gasps, she told the court,
"I have a hard time understanding why I did something like this.''
Judge Walker was unmoved, describing her excuse for taking the boy as "contrived and unpersuasive.'' He sentenced Diane to a year in state prison.
"A tearful Diane Walden left the courtroom in handcuffs Friday,'' began the Oregonian's story the next day. She was on her way to the Oregon Women's Correctional Center in Salem for what the paper described as "her secretive forty-day escapade with a teen-age boy last summer.''
As so often happens at trials, though, the real story was not told
What Mrs. Walden had been looking for in Peter Jay Rudge, after all, was
|not foremost "a child she could use for sexual purposes,'' as her prosecutor had accused back in April,|
|or even one who would "fill the emptiness of her own life,'' as he charged two months later in June,|
|but rather the guide who would lead her to that Fountain of Youth her imagined ancestor Ponce de Leon had searched for almost 500 years earlier, the chance to be young again and to do it right this time.|
It was a chimera that seemed to tempt her still: On the eve of her sentencing hearing, Mrs. Walden and her husband went shopping at a grocery story near their home for reading material she might take with her when she went away the next day.
Standing before the racks of paperback fiction, Diane studied for some time the cover of a romance novel titled Obsessive Love, then placed it in her cart.
She turned away, took a few steps, then abruptly changed her mind, put the book back and selected another. "I'd rather have this one,'' she told Jerry, then showed her husband the title - Everlasting.