When she was 10 years old, a woman alleges, the owner of Bill's Cafe near Dundalk would come upstairs to the apartment above the bar and sexually abuse her while her mother served customers downstairs. The year was 1979. The woman says the abuse continued for three years.
More than 30 years later, police have charged bar owner Nicolaos Trintis, now 64, with sex offenses including second-degree rape. He was taken into custody Wednesday and released on $100,000 bond.
The woman told The Baltimore Sun that Trintis warned her at the time of the alleged assaults that if she tried to report them, no one would believe her.
She said she went to police in May 2012, after an attempted reconciliation with her mother and an incident involving a young relative that brought her memories surging back.
Police investigated her claims, and this summer she was told an arrest was imminent. But the case then appeared to stall.
Her husband, frustrated, created a website to call attention to the alleged abuses. The Sun does not name alleged victims of sexual assault.
Trintis, contacted by The Sun before his arrest, denied any wrongdoing and blamed the allegations on a "disgruntled employee." He said he believed a police investigation that he said occurred decades ago had cleared him.
"It was a very thorough process at the time," he said.
Bill's Cafe, a corner bar at the intersection of Dundalk and Holabird avenues just inside the city line, opened in 1954 and was run by Trintis from the 1970s until an unrelated raid by police this fall. Its marquee still advertises $1.50 drafts and live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Trintis family is active in the area's Greek community, and a Web search shows that Trintis held leadership positions with his church and the local chapter of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association.
Michael Mavronis, a friend who serves with Trintis with AHEPA, said he was stunned by the allegations.
"He's a man of honor — he's a family man," Mavronis said.
The website created by the alleged victim's husband, which was taken down after they received word of Trintis' arrest, included her eighth-grade school picture. It showed her staring blankly forward, devoid of a smile.
"I go to bed in tears hoping not to wake up and I cry all over again when I do wake up," she said on the site.
Advocates for sexual assault victims say it is common for abuse survivors to make allegations years or decades after an incident. A news story, such as coverage of the Penn State abuse scandal, can serve as a trigger, they say. In other cases, victims may recall their trauma as their children grow to the age at which the abuse occurred.
"Memories and issues that get buried don't necessarily get resolved," said Gail Reid, who works with the TurnAround victim advocacy group.
There is no statute of limitations in Maryland for rape.
But Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN, said it's rare for older cases to gain traction. Such cases can be difficult for authorities to prove without corroborating evidence.
Lisae Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, called it "a heavy lift," but said, "It's not impossible."
Nick Trintis said at a recent city liquor board hearing that he had owned Bill's Cafe since 1973. Police arrested two men DJing at the bar in September, alleging that they were dealing crack cocaine, heroin and marijuana out of a side door and from the DJ booth.
At that hearing, Trintis appeared without an attorney and said that the area around the bar had "decayed rather rapidly" and that he was "getting out" of the business. The property is up for sale. The online listing shows photos of the upstairs apartment where the abuse allegedly occurred.
On the website the woman's husband created, she was identified only as "A." She said her mother worked a night shift for Trintis as the bar manager. She alleges that Trintis often ventured upstairs, where she was alone.
"There were times he would come and check on us and just lay in the bed next to me not touching or talking, just laying next to me," she said. "His next step was coming in on me while I was taking a bath. It was like he knew when I was in the tub, like he could hear water running through the walls."
She blames her mother for not protecting her from the alleged abuse, and they became estranged.
Her mother was interviewed by police last November, according to charging documents, and said she was involved in a six-year relationship with Trintis. The mother said Trintis tried to be a father figure to her children, and purchased bras for her daughter.
She said she tried to switch her shifts at the bar to the daytime, but Trintis "would never allow it."
The mother told police she felt that "he did it to keep her in the bar while he would go upstairs to check on the kids." But the records do not indicate whether the mother knew of or corroborated the alleged abuse.
When her mother became sick, the woman's husband said, an aunt urged her to reconcile. Concern that a young relative might have been abused in an unconnected situation "sent her over the edge," he said. Subsequent counseling and therapy led her to open up.
When the case appeared to have stalled, she said the city prosecutor became dismissive and told her it was a low priority, and stopped returning phone messages.
Reid, a member of the city's Sexual Assault Response Team, which reviews the work of police and prosecutors investigating sex offenses, said the case was strong but had fallen by the wayside.
The Baltimore state's attorney's office removed the prosecutor assigned to the case and placed another in charge. The new prosecutor asked the accuser to meet with her on Friday, and police filed for an arrest warrant later that night.
A spokesman for the state's attorney's office confirmed that the prosecutor previously assigned to the case was reassigned but declined to comment on the allegations that she was dismissive.
The accuser said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and used drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.
In an interview, the victim said she went to Bill's Cafe last Christmas. She was angry, and she had some drinks. When no one was looking, she said, she wrote a message on a chalkboard: "Nick loves little girls," and signed her name.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun