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Craig v. Caron

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

October 21, 2014

SARAH CRAIG et al.
v.
KRYSTAL GAYLE CARON

Submitted on Briefs: July 30, 2014.

Judgment vacated and remanded for the entry of a denial of an order for protection from abuse.

Stephen D. Nelson, Esq., Severson, Hand, & Nelson, P.A., Houlton, for appellant Krystal Gayle Caron.

Sarah Craig did not file a brief.

Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, SILVER, MEAD, GORMAN, and JABAR, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1176

SAUFLEY, C.J.

[¶ 1] This appeal requires us to address the statutory definition of " stalking" for purposes of obtaining a protection from abuse order pursuant to 19-A M.R.S. § 4005(1) and 4007(1) (2013). Krystal Gayle Caron appeals from a judgment entered in the District Court (Houlton, O'Mara, J.) granting Sarah Craig, individually and on behalf of her two children, an order of protection from abuse based on a finding that Caron engaged in stalking the alleged victims, and from the court's ruling on Caron's post-judgment motion for findings of fact and conclusions of law. See M.R. Civ. P. 52(a). Caron contends that the court erred in entering the judgment because Craig and her children are not " family or household members or dating partners" of Caron and the conduct found

Page 1177

by the court does not constitute stalking. 19-A M.R.S. § § 4002(1), (3-A), (4), 4007(1) (2013); see 17-A M.R.S. § 210-A (2013). We agree and vacate the judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

[¶ 2] Craig filed a complaint for protection from abuse on October 2, 2013, alleging that Caron, the " ex wife of [Craig's] current boyfriend," had come into her home and hit her, resulting in criminal assault charges against Caron. Caron moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that Craig lacked standing to bring a complaint for protection from abuse against Caron. Specifically, Caron argued that Craig lacked standing because she did not allege that she and Caron were " family or household members or dating partners." 19-A M.R.S. § 4002(1), (3-A), (4).

[¶ 3] The court acknowledged that the matter would have been properly presented as a protection from harassment complaint. See 5 M.R.S. § § 4651-4655 (2013). Nonetheless, it denied the motion to dismiss because of the possibility that Craig could demonstrate an alternative factual basis for standing to bring a protection from abuse action, that is, that Caron had stalked her. See 19-A M.R.S. § 4005(1); see also 17-A M.R.S. § 210-A (defining " stalking" ). The court held an evidentiary hearing at which Craig and Caron testified.

[¶ 4] At the hearing, both parties testified that Caron's ex-husband, the father of two children with Caron, is in a relationship with Sarah Craig and living with her. The Carons' children are sometimes at Craig's home with their father. Craig testified that, on September 27, 2013, Caron's children were at Craig's house and that one of them was ill. She described the genesis of the dispute as follows. After Caron's ex-husband argued with Caron over the telephone about what to do for the sick child, Craig sent Caron a text message containing " some pretty vulgar statements." Caron's ex-husband and the two children then left Craig's home to seek medical assistance for the ailing child. Shortly thereafter, Caron arrived at Craig's house. The women both testified that an altercation ensued, but they disagreed about who was the initial aggressor. Craig's three-year-old son witnessed the altercation, and he was scared. He fell down while trying to help his mother.

[¶ 5] After hearing the evidence, the court reached the following findings of fact based on competent evidence offered at trial. See Preston v. Tracy, 2008 ME 34, ¶ 10, 942 A.2d 718. Caron entered Craig's home unexpectedly without knocking or announcing herself. Craig told Caron to leave, but Caron did not leave. Caron was upset and struck Craig. Craig fell to the floor.

[¶ 6] Based on these findings, the court found that Caron had stalked Craig, and the court entered an order of protection from abuse. Caron moved for findings of fact and conclusions of law related to the finding of stalking, and the court entered written findings and conclusions. The court found that Caron had engaged in a " course of conduct," meaning two or more acts, of stalking by (1) entering Craig's home unexpectedly without knocking and without being invited, (2) refusing to leave the home when she was asked to do so, and (3) striking Craig in the head. See 17-A M.R.S. § 210-A.

[¶ 7] Caron timely appealed from the judgment. See 14 M.R.S. § 1901(1) (2013); M.R. ...


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