A 22-year-old homeless woman was arrested early Thursday for the sexual abuse of a 14-year-old Berkeley boy, six weeks after she was caught with the same youth along an Oregon highway.
An alert patrol officer, Amber Phillips, discovered the pair at 12:23 a.m. as she was walking her nightly foot patrol along Hearst Avenue by Ohlone Park.
Looking into the park from near the corner of Bonita Avenue, she saw Melissa Danielle Cullen and a partially clad boy, said Berkeley Police spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss.
“She detained them because the boy seemed young and she felt the situation warranted further investigation,” said the sergeant.
Under questioning, the pair revealed that they had been sexually involved for some time. Prior to coming to Ohlone Park, the couple had also spent time in Tilden Park, said Sgt. Kusmiss.
“The items they had in the park gave the appearance that they had been sleeping on the streets or in parks for some time,” she said.
A call to the boy’s father brought him to the scene, where the youth was handed over to his custody and Cullen was transported to the police station.
The officer learned that Cullen was already facing nearly identical sexual abuse charges involving the same boy, stemming from a June 15 arrest in Lincoln County, Ore., Kusmiss said.
An officer with the department’s sex crimes detail continued the investigation during the day.
Cullen is now being held in custody on three felony charges—lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, statutory rape and child stealing—as well as a misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The charges are virtually the same as those Cullen still faces from her arrest in Oregon.
According to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Abby Dorsey was on patrol along U.S. Highway 101 near Yachats, Ore., at 8:47 a.m. June 15. Spotting a vehicle parked along the roadway, she looked inside—allegedly discovering Cullen and the boy in the midst of having sex.
Further investigation revealed that the couple had driven north from Berkeley without the knowledge of the boy’s parents, according to Dorsey’s report.
Cullen was arrested for statutory rape, sex abuse, contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor and custodial interference and booked into Lincoln County Jail, pending pre-trial release on $90,000 bail.
Sgt. Kusmiss said Lincoln County District Attorney’s office is preparing the paperwork to seek Cullen’s extradition to stand trial for the charges there.
Though Lincoln County authorities listed Cullen as a Berkeley resident, Sgt. Kusmiss said, “She said she originally came from Massachusetts, and she said she’s been homeless for some time. She’s been traveling.”
Cullen told officers she had originally met the youth on the street in Berkeley, and the investigation began. According to police, the couple reconnected in Berkeley following the Oregon arrest.
The sergeant praised Officer Phillips for taking the initiative in launching the investigation.
“It’s quite an unusual case for us. If she hadn’t been alert, we probably wouldn’t have made the case,” said Sgt. Kusmiss.