Beemer children reveal themselves as victims of prolonged sexual assault
The children of Robert T. and Karen Beemer lived in many places, in part because their father worked as a long-distance truck driver and their mother was an undocumented Scottish immigrant who picked up work wherever she could.
The family moved so often that the four children, born within four years of each other in the 1980s, had a hard time making close friends or feeling they belonged to a community.
When the Beemers lived on the first floor of a wood-shingled rental house on Griswold Avenue in Old Lyme, they didn't feel especially welcome.
They had little money in a town that Kimberley Beemer, now 28, described as "upscale" and where 29-year-old Lorraine Beemer Rodriguez said "everybody knows everybody."
It was in this affluent small town that the terrible secret that made the two girls cling to one another in bed came to light.
In 1998, their two older siblings, 13-year-old Timothy and 14-year-old Christina, disclosed to a counselor at the Lymes' Youth Service Bureau that their father had been molesting them and their younger sisters for years.
A cousin also reported that Beemer took him into the woods when he was 6 and touched him sexually.
Beemer, now 52, went to prison for eight years and would never again molest his biological children.
But despite strict monitoring by the Department of Adult Probation and registry as a sex offender upon his release, he was able to gain access to children in his own home, according to court documents.
He currently is incarcerated for violation of probation and under investigation for allegedly molesting a 5-year-old and 9-year-old whose mother, unaware of his background, dropped them off for babysitting at the Norwich apartment where he was living with a boyfriend.
The Day does not usually identify victims of sexual assault, but earlier this year, Lorraine Beemer Rodriguez contacted a reporter and requested that her story be told.
Her other surviving siblings — Christina Beemer died in a car crash in 2002, at age 17 — agreed to be identified.
They said they want to do whatever they can to prevent Roebrt Beemer from hurting any more children.
They hope to shed light on a topic that many find difficult even to think about.
Lorraine, Kimberley and Timothy Beemer, who all live in the region, want it to stop.
"I've always known my dad was a pedophile, my whole life," said Lorraine Beemer Rodriguez. "Ever since I was little, it was a normal part of growing up. It was part of life."
The most outspoken of the three siblings, Lorraine has been attending her father's court appearances, scouring the Internet for information about Beemer and working with an advocacy group to change the way sexual assault cases are handled by the courts.
A married woman with children of her own, she said she has forgiven her father and let go of her shame after many years of counseling and a two-year stint in a Christian rehabilitation center in Florida.
She said it was hard to live a normal life after their father was arrested. Kids said mean things and parents didn't let their children play with the Beemers.
"In Old Lyme, everyone told us we were going to be pedophiles, too, because our dad was," she said. "I didn't do anything wrong. I was just a kid."
Kimberley Beemer, now 28, walks with a pronounced limp, having lost part of one leg in a 2005 car crash in which she also suffered a life-threatening brain injury.
She said in an interview this fall that she is not letting her childhood or her impairments hold her back. She is attending college and hopes to help other survivors of child molestation.
"I'm not ashamed anymore," she said. "I'm in school now. I'm pursuing my dreams. I'm not what people think I'm supposed to be."
Like her sister, she has seen her father since his arrest, but has since cut him out of her life. She said she visited him in prison once.
"He said, 'I'm sorry your mom put this into your head,''' she said. "I got up and walked out."
Of Beemer's alleged behavior following his release from prison, Kimberley Beemer said, "He's killing people's lives, and he thinks he can get away with it and it makes me sick."
Kimberley and Timothy Beemer said they looked into changing their surname, but it is too costly.
Timothy, 30, is the quietest sibling. He lives with a family friend who he considers "the only father I've ever known."
He has not seen his biological father in nearly 20 years, but said he might go to court when Beemer's latest case is resolved.
Like Lorraine, Kimberley and their mother, he is angry that Beemer was not locked away forever.
State police launched a lengthy and far-reaching investigation following the children's disclosures, and in August 1999 charged Beemer, then 36, with first-degree sexual assault and three counts of risk of injury to a minor.
Beemer had left the family in 1997 and was living out of state while authorities were investigating. He was apprehended in a town aptly called Justice, Ill., and brought back to Connecticut.
Following his arrest, an investigator said Beemer had lived in five states and Europe during the past five years and was suspected of leaving a trail of victims all over the country.
While out on bond awaiting trial, he was charged with molesting another child in September 2000.
And when he eventually was released to the community in 2008, court documents indicate Beemer continued to seek opportunities to target children.
"He's been found on a playground," Rodriguez said. "He's been found with other pedophiles in his house. My dad has a diaper fetish. I don't understand it. He has a fetish with kids or adults wearing rubber training pants. He's on (Internet) videos talking about it."
The Beemer children said that in the family home, Beemer isolated them to carry out the abuse, taking them from their bed while everybody else was sleeping or for a ride in the cab of his 18-wheeler.
They all knew what was happening, but never discussed it, according to Rodriguez.
"He would use any ruse, like, 'Let's go to the store and get doughnuts,'" she said. "Sometimes in our sleep, we would wake up in his bed."
Karen Beemer, who married Beemer in Scotland while he was serving with the U.S. Army, had reported that her husband was molesting their children at least twice before, while the family lived in Italy and Georgia, according to court documents.
Beemer always denied wrongdoing.
He was discharged from the Army and fired from a civilian defense job, but until his children came forward, he never was charged.
Over the years, Karen Beemer had split and reunited with her husband several times. She said recently that Beemer threatened to turn her over to immigration officials and that she lived in constant fear of losing her children.
After the children made their disclosures, the state Department of Children and Families became involved.
Timothy Beemer moved in with the family friend and Christina with a relative, leaving the two youngest girls at home.
Attorney Beth Hogan, who one day found the mother crying hysterically at a pay phone outside her office in Old Lyme, represented Karen Beemer pro bono in her divorce.
"What Karen had to go through...," Hogan said in a phone interview. "The crimes themselves, the violation of the children, plus the struggle to survive and try to keep it together."
Karen Beemer, now known as Karen Conlin, said she and her children have never discussed the abuse, and that she only became aware of the details after reading a court document that Lorraine found online.
Back in 1998, she told police that she preferred her children discuss their molestation with counselors.
She said recently that maybe it's time to sit down with all her children and discuss the crimes, but it has yet to happen. She was polite during interviews and thanked The Day for telling her children's story.
"The kids are messed up for the rest of their lives," she said. "They really are. The pedophile gets everything they want."
Had he received the maximum prison terms for his crimes, Beemer would have remained in prison for decades and may not have had the opportunity to hurt any more children.
To the dismay of his closest victims — his own biological children — that's not how the court system works.
As his cases were headed to trial in New London Superior Court, Beemer's attorney, Dominic Piacenza, pointed to the vagueness of the children's accusations and said he would be attacking Mrs. Beemer on the witness stand.
Christina and Timothy, scheduled to testify in front of their abuser and a roomful of strangers, got scared and backed out.
Judge Susan B. Handy reassigned the case to attorney Peter E. Scillieri, a public defender, after the new charges, involving a 3-year-old, came to light.
Beemer accepted a plea deal and was sentenced in November 2000 to 20 years in prison, suspended after eight years served, followed by 25 years of strict probation and lifetime registry as a sexual offender.
At sentencing, prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman said Beemer deserved a harsher sentence, but the state offered him a plea bargain because it did not want the children to relive their assault by testifying in court.
Ferryman, who has prosecuted Beemer in all of his cases, said she couldn't discuss the case due to the pending charges.
Lawmakers and state officials are reviewing the way the state handles sexual assault cases.
In October, the Connecticut Sentencing Commission began a study of the systems that affect sexual offenders and their victims.
The committee is examining sexual offender sentencing, risk assessment and management, registration requirements, recidivism, housing, victim and survivor needs and services.
A final report will be submitted to the General Assembly by Dec. 15, 2017.
Beemer's mother, Christina Beemer, now deceased, and a sister came to his defense following his arrest, writing letters to the court detailing his victimization by his own father throughout his childhood.
They said he was a good person who needed help.
Georgette Katin, executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut, said most parents educate their children about so-called "stranger danger" but rarely speak to them about the risk of being violated by someone they know, even though an estimated 90 percent of children who are sexually assaulted know their abuser.
"It's a very uncomfortable subject for anyone," Katin said. "Any type of sexual violence is disturbing, and people cannot fathom how it could be possible that someone could do this to a child. It could be just easier not to think about it."
Familes that experience sexual abuse often experience domestic violence, financial problems and substance abuse, Katin said. Court documents indicate that all of those problems plagued the Beemer family at times.
The Beemer children said they have felt as if they live under the suspicion that they, too, will become child molesters. However, most people who have been sexually abused as children do not become predators, according to Katin.
Law enforcement has come a long way since the days when sexual assault was considered "a family matter," Katin said.
Forensic investigators are specifically trained, and children are required to tell their stories only a limited number of times.
Victims receive "trauma-focused therapy," which Katin said is proven to help them heal.
But in court, for a number of reasons, prosecutors still have trouble securing lengthy sentences for child rapists.
Like any other defendant, those accused of child molestation have the right to face their accusers at trial.
Prosecutors don't like to retraumatize children by asking them to relive their abuse in front of the alleged abuser and a roomful of strangers.
Children who are willing and able to testify can be shaky witnesses and are subject to cross-examination by defense attorneys.
"What our judicial system expects is for a victim to be able to come and testify chronologically and very specifically as to what occurred on what day and what time and where exactly it occurred," Katin said. "Children don't typically have that capacity. They give you bits and pieces."
Also, Katin said, jurors who have been exposed to criminal investigation shows on television expect that evidence is going to include DNA or crime scene photos, "and those things are not going to happen in a child sexual abuse case."
Katin prefers to describe victims as people who have been injured rather than permanently damaged. She said that with treatment, there is hope.
"Psychological wounds are not different than physical wounds," she said. "If you had a serious physical wound, if it's not treated, it will get worse."
The children of Robert Beemer, who have struggled to overcome their ordeal, feel as if their wounds are reopened every time he is accused of hurting another child.
They didn't have a chance to testify against him, but they are speaking out now.
"I want parents to realize they're not protecting their kids by covering it up," Lorraine Beemer Rodriguez said. "The child still has to live with it for the rest of their lives."
Karen Beemer Conlin had moved to Florida following her divorce, but currently is living in the area. Conlin said she would be moving back to her native Scotland, where she plans to live out the rest of her life.
"My family is ruined," she said during one phone conversation. "My family is never going to be the way I wanted."
A letter for my abuser:
I have come from a dark place that even I don't understand. I have overcome obstacles that many would run from or knock over. I face each day with a new mind and a new goal. I will not be just another statistic! I couldn't prevent my childhood, it's just the cards I was dealt, yet I use that to grow from.
I destroyed my growing up and adulthood proving the world right; I was just another victim who refused to fight and be better than her abuser. I took drugs just because I hated myself for loving you, hated myself for not being able to blame you. I jumped on men searching to destroy them. I can say that I just wanted love, but that's just a lie. I needed control and I knew with my body I could control all things the world said I would be. You see the children of child molesters, we are a very different group. The world feels sorry for us for a time and then they forget us. And yet our scars remain.
Some of us choose drugs and pretend that that's how we cope with the memories and others dive into work and having a family, trying to forget the past. Me, I've done both. I've worked to avoid and stayed high to forget, yet in the end the result is the same: I was once a child of a pedophile. However, today I'm not that child. I am an adult trying to find where I belong. I don't hate my dad. I don't regret the childhood I lived. In the end I had a great mom and a great brother and sisters that stayed by me. We stood the test of shame, and though we all haven't come out alive, we are still together.
We don't live prefect lives, we aren't what society would call successfull, but we don't call ourselves victims. In fact we are people like everyone else, who had an unfortunate thing happen. We use that as no excuse for why we have done the things we have done in adulthood. We refuse to bow down to a world that sees so fit to put a label around us. Though we share a generic marker of a sick man, we do not resemble him nor take after him.
We stand tall and we stand proud because, Robert Beemer, you can never hurt us again.