Police find rape suspect via coffee cup

He’s ordered held in lieu of $250,000 bail in 2 sexual assaults at the abandoned Bailey’s Motor Inn

Staff writerMarch 6, 2014 

A discarded paper coffee cup from Starbucks was the crucial clue that helped Olympia police arrest a man Tuesday in connection with sexual assaults of two women who were abducted at Olympia bus stops.

Married father of four Bryon E. Johnston, 35, was being held Wednesday at the Thurston County Jail on suspicion of one count of first-degree rape, one count of attempted first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree kidnapping.

A judge found probable cause to support the accusations against Johnston during a court hearing Wednesday and ordered him held in lieu of $250,000 bail. Johnston’s defense attorney, Paul Strophy, declined comment.

Johnston is suspected in the abduction and rape of a woman from an Olympia bus stop on Fourth Avenue in downtown Olympia on Nov. 28. He also is accused in an attempted rape of a woman who was abducted and sexually assaulted in February.

In both cases, the assailant drove the women to the abandoned Bailey’s Motor Inn on Martin Way in Olympia.

Olympia police began investigating the case Feb. 19, after a woman in her 20s reported that a man abducted her from a bus stop, then drove her to the Bailey’s Motor Inn parking lot.

According to court papers:

The woman reported that the assailant asked her “if she wanted to make some money,” after she had accepted a ride, and then groped her breasts. She said the man threatened to cut her, and then pulled her hair as she fought him off and jumped out of the moving vehicle in the Bailey’s parking lot.

The woman said that as she ran from her attacker’s sport-utility vehicle, she saw several items fall from the passenger door as he drove off.

The woman later pointed out these items to detectives as they investigated at the scene. They included a ceramic coffee cup and a paper coffee cup.

Olympia Police Department spokeswoman Laura Wohl said Wednesday that information gathered from the sticker on the discarded coffee cup gave detectives information about where it had been purchased — a Starbucks drive-thru in DuPont on Feb. 19.

A Starbucks cup sticker typically includes information about what type of drink has been purchased, and at what time — down to the second.

Starbucks later contacted Olympia detectives and provided surveillance footage from the DuPont Starbucks drive-thru of the suspect ordering a drink, court papers state. Reached by telephone Wednesday, a Starbucks spokesman at corporate headquarters in Seattle said all questions should be referred to Olympia police, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

From the surveillance footage, an Olympia police detective was able to identify a license plate number for the SUV. The detective then obtained a Washington state Department of Licensing photo for Johnston after learning he was the husband of the registered owner of the vehicle, a white 2005 Cadillac Escalade.

The DOL photo of Johnston closely resembled a police artist’s sketch of the suspect in the Feb. 19 attack. The Olympia detective also learned that Johnston had a prior conviction for soliciting a prostitute in Pierce County in 2011.

The Cadillac Escalade registered to Johnston’s wife also matched the description of the vehicle used during the Feb. 19 assault. The victim in the Feb. 19 assault had also told police that her assailant had a shirt with a name patch on it that read “Ryan” or “Bryan.”

During the investigation, detectives learned that a second, very similar sexual assault had occurred in Olympia on Nov. 28. In that case, a woman in her 20s was raped at the Bailey’s Motor Inn parking lot after she was offered a ride while waiting for a bus on Fourth Avenue.

Olympia detectives contacted both victims and showed them a photo-montage of suspects, including a photo of Johnston. Both women positively identified Johnston as their assailant.

At about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, Olympia police arrested Johnston at his DuPont home. He was taken into custody without incident and invoked his right to an attorney.

Olympia police are still investigating whether there are other victims in this case. Anyone with information about other attacks is asked to call the Olympia Police Department at 360-753-8300.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 Twitter: @JeremyPawloski

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