Centralia sex offender now running apartment complexes in Chehalis

OlympianNovember 21, 2013 


A former property manager convicted of committing child rape while on the job is now overseeing three apartment complexes in Lewis County.

Robert Strickland, the manager, was convicted in 2008 of third-degree rape of a child, third-degree child molestation and violation of a protection order.

At the time, Strickland, 39, was the "live-in landlord" of a clean and sober house at 1321 Crescent Ave. in Centralia.

He served 34 months in prison and has now returned to his old profession.

Apartment resident Tricia Ryland earlier this week was horrified to learn that a level two sex offender is managing her building, a complex inhabited by several families with children.

Few in the building at 259 NW Chehalis Ave. in Chehalis are aware of Strickland’s criminal history. According to Ryland, Strickland was hired as the new manager without any notice from the building landlord, Don Portnoy. Strickland’s duties include maintenance, repairs and collecting rent.

"He shows up, unannounced, always," Ryland said.

Recently, a friend suggested Ryland look into Strickland’s past.

"It was at this point that we realized we had never been given his last name. We went through all saved voicemail and text messages and all rent receipts. It seemed he had been careful to make sure his name was illegible," she said. "It took us a week to finally come up with it, and as soon as I entered it into the sex offender database (his conviction) popped right up."

"Naturally, we freaked out a little bit," she said. "He’s shown up here when my godson was here and has keys and access to all apartments, including many that have children living in them."

According to court documents, in August 2007 Kathy Baxter, a resident of the clean and sober house in Centralia, contacted the Centralia Police Department.

Baxter reported she was concerned about the welfare of several juvenile males who frequented the home. Strickland appeared to be having inappropriate relationships with at least four teenage boys, she told police.

A year later, Corydon Franklin, a drug court client, reported to police that Strickland had been sleeping behind closed doors with juveniles. Franklin also reported that Strickland and the boys communicated online and that "these communications are sexually graphic."

"They will tease each other. They will engage in sexually graphic conversation. Strickland uses the nickname ’Monkey’ for (the victim)," Franklin said, according to court documents.

Over the subsequent months, several other witnesses reported seeing flirtatious behavior, seeing Strickland touch the juveniles’ genitals and seeing Strickland provide the boys with cigarettes and alcohol.

Brian Burgess, a friend of Strickland, told police Strickland had confessed to having oral and anal sex with a 15-year-old victim.

According to court documents, when Burgess asked Strickland why he would do this, Strickland replied, "No, I’m not a predator. I’m in love with this kid."

After pleading guilty to the child rape and molestation charges, Strickland told police he and the young victims had father-son type relationships. He said he encouraged the boys to go to school and stay out of trouble

The relationship with his 14-year-old victim evolved to a sexual one, because the 14-year-old would "make advances and requests to engage in sexual behavior," Strickland said.

According to court documents: "Strickland stated that he resisted the requests for some time as he knew that the age difference would cause problems. He stated that eventually he gave in to (the victim’s) demands."

Strickland expressed remorse for getting his victim into a bad situation, said he loved the boy and hoped to "continue to be there for him in the future," according to court documents.

He denied inappropriate behavior with any of the boys except the 14-year-old.

He also told police he has struggled with addiction to methamphetamines.

As a result of his convictions, Strickland was sentenced to 34 months in prison. During his prison sentence, he started sex offender treatment but was terminated from the program due to non-compliance with program rules.

Strickland was released from prison on Oct. 19, 2010, and is currently on active supervision with Department of Corrections.

In 2012, he pleaded guilty to "taking substantial steps" to avoid registering as a sex offender. According to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, "based on the crimes involved Strickland has been identified as a clear risk to the community."

Ryland said that after learning of Strickland’s criminal history, she got in contact with law enforcement.

Strickland, however, is in compliance with the law.

For a period following his release, Strickland was ordered to refrain from contact with minors. That order, however, has ended.

According to the Department of Corrections, Strickland has registered as a sex offender and has not broken any laws - in short, he’s done nothing wrong.

"I realize technicalities of law can be complicated," Ryland said, "but it seems terribly wrong for a convicted rapist to be alone with vulnerable populations in their very homes, much less with no knowledge or warning."

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