Female psychotherapist charged with stalking and sexually assaulting male soldier patient

May 30, 2011

A female therapist at Fort Riley, Kan., was accused of stalking and sexually assaulting a male soldier she was treating for post-traumatic stress disorder.

After she was ordered to stay off the base, she breeched the gates at the installation and led police on a high-speed car chase.

Rachelle Santiago, 43, of Manhattan, Kan., was charged in a federal criminal complaint with entering the installation to stalk the soldier, who she was counseling for PTSD and marital issues, and with fleeing from police. She was issued a temporary protective order related to the case on Feb. 1, according to a Riley County police spokesman.

Santiago is a married clinical social worker and contract employee at the Irwin Army Community Hospital. State records show she has been licensed to practice in Kansas since at least 1992.

Since Jan. 31, Santiago has been in medical isolation at Leavenworth Detention Center in Leavenworth, Kan.

Federal prosecutor Randy Hendershot entered a motion in court asking that Santiago receive a mental evaluation. The filing states that after Santiago was arrested, she had to be restrained at Geary Community Hospital in nearby Junction City. She had ripped medical equipment from the walls, demanded to be let onto the post to see her patient and threatened to kill nationally known comedian Stephen Colbert.

Doctors diagnosed Santiago with mania induced by the steroid prednisone, which she was taking for a breathing disorder, court papers state. Among the adverse side-effects of short-term corticosteroid therapy are euphoria and hypomania, states a 2006 article in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Santiago’s attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Ronald E. Wurtz, has filed a request asking that an independent expert evaluate Santiago. He did not return a call seeking comment.

An affidavit filed by Special Agent Lisa Medrano of the 78th Military Police Detachment at Fort Riley details her investigation, sparked by the sergeant’s complaint. Army Times is not naming the soldier because he is the alleged victim of sexual abuse.

The soldier said he had been Santiago’s patient since early December, that there had been four sessions and his marriage was improving.

However, the soldier claims the troubles began when Santiago suggested he might solve his problems by having sex outside his marriage. She then invited him to her office on a Saturday evening in January. It was in her office that she groped him and told him she wanted to have sex with him. He did not reciprocate and left.

The next day, he received 15 text messages and missed calls from Santiago, including a photo of pink lingerie. He texted her to stop calling and writing, after which more calls and messages came in “rapid succession,” the complaint states.

On Jan. 23, the soldier found fresh footprints in the snow outside his home after someone rang his doorbell and left. His wife spotted a car near their home that the soldier recognized as Santiago’s.

The soldier said he “became more alarmed at the situation, said he was losing his sense of security in his home and for his family,” the complaint states. He “felt like he did during his deployment, edgy with a need for a heightened sense of security to protect his home and family.”

The soldier asked his therapist to meet him at a Burger King, where she handed him an envelope with the words “my master” written on it. He returned it without opening it and asked her to stop calling, texting and harassing him.

She responded that the soldier was “her man,” she removed her wedding ring and told the soldier that her relationship with her husband was over. He said he felt “extremely unnerved, vulnerable, scared and confused,” as her calls and text messages continued into the next two days.

He said that after Santiago appeared outside his home in her car, he worried that she would go to his children’s day care center and harm them if he did not go to see her. He went to a superior and was advised to report the matter.

In text messages, Santiago allegedly told him, “You will come talk to me or I will jack your world 6 ways to Sunday,” and “You want a crazy bitch, I will be your crazy bitch.” One stated, “I will eat your lunch ... the only way you can protect your boys.”

The soldier finally told his wife about Santiago’s behavior, and his wife later told investigators that she received strange voicemail messages from an unfamiliar number. She alerted the children’s day care center about the harassment and asked neighbors to look out for strange vehicles.

On Jan. 25, the soldier called Santiago under the supervision of Criminal Investigation Division special agents, and she told him, “she loved him with all her heart and soul, he was her man and she would lay down everything she had for him.”

When CID agents interviewed Santiago later that day, she denied propositioning or touching the soldier sexually. She said that she was not calling or texting the soldier inappropriately; she believed her phone had been hijacked to make it seem as if it was her, and someone was “duplicating her voice to leave phone messages, but again, it was not her,” the complaint states.

Santiago was told she was barred from Fort Riley. She nevertheless attempted to enter through the Ogden Gate at 11 p.m. that day. She was denied entry and cited for criminal trespassing.

Santiago phoned the Military Police desk soldier and said she needed to come onto Fort Riley because the soldier needed help.

At 1 a.m., she approached the Henry Gate and breeched it at a high speed. Police recognized the driver as Santiago, and pursued in an hourlong chase in which Santiago’s speed climbed to 110 mph.

The complaint said Santiago’s driving was excessively fast, erratic and dangerous, particularly as she passed family housing areas.

Police backed off to a safe speed, eventually Santiago stopped and was caught. She was taken to Geary Community Hospital and placed under a police guard.

At the hospital, Santiago tore items off walls, cursed and ranted, and was eventually restrained “to be prevented from hurting herself or the staff,” the complaint states.

Hospital staff described Santiago as “completely out of control, manic, profane, delusional and was screaming, yelling and flailing around on the cart” — all the while maintaining she was the sergeant’s therapist and needed to see him.

Santiago was taken to Osawatomie State Mental Hospital, where Dr. Kurt Guindon told authorities that Santiago had a psychotic break due to heavy dosages of the steroidal medication she was taking. She told Guindon her phone was “hijacked,” the soldier needed her and that she would contact him when she was released. She denied sexually propositioning him.

On Jan. 26, the soldier found an envelope in his car with the word “master” written on it. It was seized and opened to reveal a card with Santiago’s hand-written exclamation of love for the soldier and a pair of perfumed panties. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Joe Gould, "Riley therapist charged with stalking patient, Army Times, February 13, 2011.


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