Following complaint, Moorhead High boys hockey coach resigns
MOORHEAD, Minn. -- The high school boys hockey coach here resigned Wednesday after a complaint filed with district officials revealed he has a history of being investigated by police for domestic assault, though he has never been convicted.
Kristin Dehmer, director of human resources for Moorhead schools, said Thursday that Peter Cullen’s resignation was effective Wednesday. She said earlier this week that district officials were reviewing a complaint lodged last week against Cullen.
The anonymous complaint, which was copied to The Forum newspaper, asserted Cullen was questioned on several different occasions by Moorhead police following 911 domestic disturbance calls made by his girlfriend. The complainant urged the district to investigate Cullen’s run-ins with police and remove him from his coaching position.
Records obtained by The Forum show Moorhead police have responded to five 911 calls since 2008 in which Terri Wiedeman, Cullen’s girlfriend, reported an argument or physical fight with him. The most recent call was on June 14.
Only one of those five 911 calls – a 2008 case in which Wiedeman claimed Cullen stomped on her head more than a dozen times, leaving a bump on her head the size of a golf ball – resulted in a criminal charge. But the misdemeanor domestic assault case was dropped before the trial because a witness couldn’t be found.
Cullen was also charged in Clay County District Court with misdemeanor domestic assault in 2004, a case dismissed under the terms of an agreement in which Cullen admitted he could have been convicted based on police reports.
Repeated calls to Cullen’s cellphone Wednesday and Thursday were not returned. A reporter Wednesday night knocked on the door of the home where he and Wiedeman live, 1916 41st Ave. S. in Moorhead, but no one answered.
It wasn’t clear if school officials knew Cullen had a history of domestic assault investigations before hiring him as interim head coach last summer and giving him the job outright in April.
Phone messages left Thursday afternoon for Athletic Director Dean Haugo, Superintendent Lynne Kovash and School Board Chairwoman Lisa Erickson weren’t returned.
Dehmer said earlier this week the district had no disciplinary actions against Cullen on file.
Cullen led the Spuds to a fifth-place finish at this year’s state hockey tournament and was named Section 8 coach of the year.
The 36-year-old played for the Spuds hockey team, graduating in 1995, and is a cousin to former Moorhead High standout and current Minnesota Wild center Matt Cullen.
Most recent calls
In the June 14 incident, police came to Wiedeman’s home after receiving a 911 call just before 9 a.m.
They found the home empty, but noticed from a window that a cell phone was broken to bits on the floor and “the large amount of beer cans that lay throughout the residence.”
Later that afternoon, officers again stopped at the residence and spoke to both Cullen and Wiedeman, who acknowledged they had a verbal fight earlier that day. Wiedeman said Cullen had broken her phone, according to police reports.
She said the fight was not physical, but later sent a text message to an officer saying there was more to the story she couldn’t share while Cullen was present.
Later contacted by police, Wiedeman said she just wanted to reiterate that the dispute was not physical. She told officers, “She and Cullen were getting along fine now and didn’t want to jeopardize his job coaching,” the police report says.
Moorhead Deputy Chief Shannon Monroe told The Forum the June 14 incident “was investigated as a domestic type of disturbance, but there was nothing there for anything to be charged or even sent over to the county attorney for a review of charges.”
When police were called to the same home at 3 a.m. Feb. 11 of last year, Wiedeman said she and Cullen had a verbal argument, and she called 911. She said it wasn’t physical.
Still, the two officers not-ed in their report that they “had been in separate incidences of physical domestics in which Peter Cullen had seriously beaten” the woman.
The officers didn’t cite the previous incidents.
2008 charge dropped
According to police records, officers were called to Wiedeman’s home after 4 a.m. on July 18, 2008, after she reported Cullen had drug her across the floor by her hair and hit her in the face. Cullen was arrested and jailed, charged with fifth-degree domestic assault.
According to police, the couple argued at Playmaker’s Bar in Fargo before she returned home. She told police Cullen arrived later, throwing a beer bottle at her in the kitchen.
Wiedeman alleged she was thrown or knocked to the floor, at which point Cullen drug her by her hair from the patio door area back to the kitchen counter area. While she was on the floor, she claimed Cullen stomped on her head and face 13 or 14 times with his shoes on.
When police asked if Cullen had been abusive in the past, Wiedeman told officers he is physical about once every four months, according to police reports.
Police noted three injuries: a quarter-sized bump on the rear left of her head, a swollen right cheek and lip and redness and swollenness on her left arm.
Cullen denied assaulting Wiedeman, but said, “If it happened, it was in self-defense,” according to a police report. He claimed she swung a lamp at him.
Asked by police how his girlfriend got the bump on her head, Cullen said he could have knocked her down in self-defense, but he didn’t remember. He told police that fresh scrapes on his knuckles were likely from his construction job.
Cullen pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge, which was dismissed two months later by prosecutors a day before the case was set for trial. The prosecutor, Pamela Harris, said she couldn’t locate a witness.
Other than police and Cullen’s ex-wife, Wiedeman was the only witness the state planned to have testify at trial, court records show.
Cullen was also charged with fifth-degree domestic assault in 2004, in a case that involved his ex-wife, Angie Cullen.
Responding to a 911 call shortly after 3 a.m. on Sept. 9, 2004, Clay County deputies came to the Cullens’ residence in Sabin.
Angie Cullen told deputies her husband had come home intoxicated about 2:30 a.m. She tried to leave the home, grabbing both sets of vehicle keys, and her husband was angry she was not leaving a set of keys for him, court records say she told the deputies.
Peter Cullen blocked her from leaving and threw her to the floor in the kitchen, leaving a mark and scratches on her inner right knee, Angie Cullen told the deputies. He then jumped on top of her, she claimed.
The wife told investigators that a friend of Cullen’s pulled him off her and held him down on the couch, telling him to let her leave, she told deputies. The friend, Brent Greiner, corroborated that but said he didn’t see Cullen throw her to the floor, records say.
Cullen denied throwing his wife to the floor, court records show. On Nov. 11, 2004, in an agreement with prosecutors, Cullen admitted he had an argument with his wife and that there was sufficient evidence to find him guilty.
Under the terms of the agreement, prosecution of the case was suspended for six months and was to be dismissed if he paid a $100 fee and didn’t commit any similar offenses. Court records state the agreement was on the basis that “the benefits to society from rehabilitation outweigh any harm to society from suspending prosecution.”
The case was officially dismissed on June 6, 2005.
Angie Cullen, whose last name is now Christiansen, filed for divorce on April 27, 2005. It was granted on Dec. 30, 2005.
The Forum’s records search showed there were two other cases in which police responded to a disturbance involving Cullen and Wiedeman that didn’t result in criminal charges.
On Feb. 13, 2011, police escorted Cullen to the Clay County Detox Center after Wiedeman was found on the ground at Eighth Street South and Belsly Boulevard in Moorhead, bleeding from her face with a chunk of her hair on the ground.
Police said in reports they found Cullen had been walking with Wiedeman in that location after leaving Dave’s Southside Tap.
Police said in reports that Wiedeman had small lacerations on her lips and scratches to her face. An ambulance was called to treat her injuries.
Wiedeman told police that she was walking on Belsly Boulevard, with Cullen a ways in front of her. She said she did not remember what happened after that.
Cullen was found running south across 40th Avenue South. The police report stated that Cullen’s story changed several times, and he eventually refused to answer questions by police.
A police report on the incident indicated officers planned to seek an assault charge against Cullen, but Monroe, the deputy police chief, said investigators couldn’t find Wiedeman for a follow-up interview despite multiple attempts – even reaching out to her through her mother.
Also, following a 3 a.m. Aug. 30, 2009, 911 call to the Wiedeman’s home, police reported they found her “visibly shaking, crying at this point, and appeared to have bruising on the left side of her neck.”
Officers said Cullen was bleeding from a forearm, but said the blood was from a construction work injury.
He was instructed to leave the area and have somebody pick him up.