"Arrested suspect escapes police custody through a bathroom window"

February 7, 2011

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

January 31, 2011 Pohnpei, FSM-A man wearing only a long sleeved white shirt tied around his face "Ninja Style" and nothing else at all crashed through the locked door of Pohnpei State Radio Station in Dolonier in the early morning hours of Monday, January 10, 2011. Merselina Brown, who works the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift as a radio announcer had come to the radio station in the tiny hours that morning at 4:45 to get a few things done before she went on the air. The attack came shortly thereafter.

"I don't know what he wanted to do but he didn't have any clothes on, not even shoes. He came in and tried to attack me or hurt me, maybe rape me. I don't know," Brown said.

Her words brought to mind a famous line from a Clint Eastwood "Dirty Harry" movie. Though Brown said she panicked, the fictional "Dirty Harry" character would likely have been proud. Brown threatened her attacker with a water pitcher and he fled the scene.

Though police, who arrived sometime in the next 15 to 20 minutes could not find Brown's attacker anywhere in the vicinity, they made an arrest on the following day.

Brown's description of her attacker was vague. "He wasn't very skinny and he wasn't very fat. He wasn't very short and he wasn't very tall. He wasn't very dark and not really light. He was brown," she said during a K-Press interview. "I didn't thinking about looking for any scars or tattoos, you know? I was panicked!" She said that her attacker was in his late 20's or early 30's.

Stephen Laurdine was arrested on January 11 in connection with Brown's attack and also with the brutal attack on two SDA student missionary teachers that took place on November 17 on the road in Dolonier that traverses the hill that leads to Cupid's Bar and Grill and the Australian Embassy Compound. One of the teachers required stitches for her injuries and the other required off island surgery in order to repair her arm which was broken in several places by the attacker.

Both the attack at V6AH and the attack on the hill in Dolonier took place in the early morning hours.

Police say that on January 11, Brown "identified" her attacker from a "lineup" of two people.

"The other guy was too old, too fat, too tall and too dark. It wasn't that guy but everything about the other guy was just right, you know?" she asked and grinned about our reference to the "Goldilocks" story.

Sometime before or during interrogation by Police detectives, Laurdine asked to use the restroom. When he was allowed to do so he apparently used the chance to make himself scarce and escaped custody through the restroom window.

Police are currently searching for Laurdine who seems to have vanished like smoke and is still at large.

Brown who is a short middle aged woman with five children said that after she arrived at the radio station on the Monday morning of the attack she locked the wooden front door of the station and then went to the control room where she put her purse down. Then she went back to the front door to lock the steel security door as she normally does. As she entered the front room she saw a glimpse of someone passing one of the windows but she didn't get a good look at that person. She looked out the window and saw her attacker sneaking around to a place in the yard of the radio station where there was no light.

She called out to the person hiding in the shadows and told him to go away because she was working. She was never able to lock the security gate. As she paced the radio station wondering what she should do her attacker started knocking on the front door. She screamed at him and told him to either go away or she was going to call the police. "He said a bad word and I'm not going to tell you what," Brown said.

"The only phone was in the control room and I went to call but I panicked and hung up. I just wanted to get rid of him," she said.

She brought the phone to the reception desk and told her attacker again that she was going to call the police. This time she let the call go through and her attacker broke down the door and came after her.

"He was naked and he had some clothes covering his face, you know? Ninja style," Brown exclaimed. She said that the man had used the long sleeves of a white shirt or a sweater around his face with the knot where his mouth should be. Only his eyes were showing.

Her attacker came after her and she picked up a pitcher that was next to the water container and threatened him with it. Apparently that was enough. Her attacker turned and fled.

"I heard dogs barking near the SDA School," she said, "and it was early and I didn't think anyone was up yet over there so I figured that was where he went."

Though the State Police station is just over a kilometer away officers arrived 15 to 20 minutes later and could find no traces of the naked man on that morning.

Laurdine's arrest came the following day. He is the State's prime suspect in both the SDA and the V6AH attacks.

"Every time I see people working on the street, you know, working and covering their face it makes me nervous for my life even though they're working and doing good things," Brown said.

"It's the first time something like this ever happened to me, you know? It's good that you put this in the newspaper. They need to catch this person. The person who is doing this did it before and I'm afraid he might to do it again," she said.