A Tenino police sergeant who investigated a 15-year-old girl's allegation she had been raped has been barred from having any contact with the girl.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham issued an anti-harassment order against Sgt. Ron Evans that will be in effect until February 2013, when the girl turns 18. Evans is on paid administrative leave.
Evans, 37, was in charge of a criminal investigation into whether the girl was raped and molested by an adult, court papers state. A man has been charged with second-degree rape and child molestation in Thurston County Superior Court as a result of that investigation.
At a hearing earlier this month on whether to grant the anti-harassment order, a prosecutor in charge of the rape case and an assistant attorney general said Evans’ actions involving the girl were consistent with “grooming behavior” engaged in by predators to gain the trust of juveniles in sex abuse cases.
“It’s just really unusual behavior to see out of a law enforcement of- ficer,” said Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dominique Jinhong during the hearing.
Evans spent nearly 10 hours with the girl on April 10, taking her to a carnival and bringing her home to meet his fiancée.
He also had frequent phone conversations with the girl and purchased her gifts, including a soccer ball, a stuffed animal and chocolate, according to the anti-harassment petition.
“Looking back, in hindsight, it almost seemed like he was courting her,” Jinhong said in court.
On May 10, the girl’s current temporary guardian filed a request for an anti-harassment order to keep Evans away from the girl. The guardian stated in the petition that Evans “became very ‘close’ to (the juvenile) while investigating the charges ... far beyond the investigating officer vs. victim boundaries.”
In response, Evans said in a written declaration that his contact with the juvenile was “professional at all times.”
Evans was placed on paid administrative leave by the Tenino Police Department on April 30, pending an internal investigation of allegations he engaged in unprofessional conduct, according to Tenino Police Chief Sean Gallagher.
The guardian’s petition makes no allegations of any criminal activity on Evans’ part. It describes various encounters between Evans and the girl, including on April 10, when Evans spent close to 10 hours with her.
Other events described in the guardian’s petition include one occasion when Evans took the girl to a counseling center after she had threatened suicide and then purchased her Easter gifts.
During the hearing, the girl’s legal guardian, the state Department of Social and Health Services, was represented by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.
The girl’s temporary guardian testified that she felt it was inappropriate for Evans to spend that much time with the girl. “I kept thinking, how can you be that close to a child when you are investigating a case against her,” she said.
During an opening statement, Assistant Attorney General Tienney Milnor told Judge Wickham that the evidence would show that Evans’ contacts with the 15-year-old were consistent “grooming behaviors.”
Jinhong, who is prosecuting the 15-year-old’s rape case, also testified . She said that she initially was not concerned about Evans’ investigation of the girl’s case, that he had investigated numerous other child rape cases that she prosecuted, and that in those cases, “his heart appeared to be in the right place.”
However, Jinhong said she later recommended to Tenino Chief Gallagher that Evans be taken off the investigation, because he seemed too emotionally close to the case, Jinhong later said
Jinhong testified that she has never before seen a law enforcement officer spend so much time with a victim in a case he or she was investigating. Jinhong added that when Evans told her he wanted to adopt the 15-year-old, he seemed “desperate.”
Gallagher, the Tenino police chief, also was called as a witness during the June 4 hearing. Gallagher testified that he spoke with Jinhong on April 15, and she told him that she had received a phone call from Child Protective Services notifying her of Evans’ nearly 10-hour outing with the girl. Gallagher testified that such behavior by Evans was inappropriate and not within the scope of the normal duties of a law enforcement officer. Gallagher subsequently had a meeting with Evans, telling him that he was to no longer have any contact with the girl.
Gallagher testified that he initially told Evans not to have contact with the girl as a “suggestion.” But Gallagher said that Evans then repeatedly asked him if the request was an order, and Gallagher found that “weird.”
When Gallagher then ordered Evans to stay away from the girl, Evans responded, “I don’t think that I can follow your order,” Gallagher said.
“I didn’t think I had to tell any of my officers more than once not to do something,” Gallagher testified.
Mason County Chief Deputy Sheriff Dean Byrd said in a phone interview that the Mason County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an internal investigation of Evans’ behavior for the Tenino Police Department. Byrd declined to discuss the details of the ongoing investigation.
Evans is a former Grays Harbor County sheriff’s deputy. He was fired in 2003 “following an investigation that centered on allegations of sexual misconduct,” according to a June 12, 2003, article in the Aberdeen Daily World. Grays Harbor Undersheriff Rick Scott said last week that the allegation involved a complaint made by an adult female prisoner who was arrested by Evans and claimed that he touched her inappropriately in a sexual manner while transporting her to the jail. Scott said Evans denied the allegation, but that he was terminated as a result of that complaint.
During the hearing before Wickham, Evans’ attorney, Stephen Hansen of Tacoma, reiterated that Evans denied the allegation that resulted in his termination from the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office. Hansen also noted that Evans never faced any criminal charges as a result of the allegation.
Hansen could not be reached for comment.
On the witness stand, Evans said that until he was placed on leave, he had no record of sustained discipline against him. He also said the allegation that resulted in his termination from the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office was “unfounded.”
Evans defended his actions in having contact with the 15-year-old girl, stating that Jinhong had earlier “commended” him for his involvement with her. Evans also stated that the 15-year-old called him “her hero” when he took her to a counseling center.
Wickham also heard testimony from the girl’s temporary guardian that she had nicknamed Evans the “gladiator.”
Evans worked as a school resource officer at Rainier High School before being placed on leave from the Tenino Police Department. When asked about Evans’ being hired as a Tenino police officer, Chief Gallagher has said that Evans was hired by former Tenino Police Chief Lee White. “All the information about (Evans) might not have been known by anybody but Lee White,” Gallagher said during an interview in May.
Former Tenino Police Chief Lee White, who resigned in 2007, sent an e-mail to The Olympian in May stating that the claim that he hired White is incorrect. “He was hired by Mayor Ken Jones, who is the only one authorized to hire,” White wrote in his e-mail. “With full disclosure of his background, and both psychological and polygraph testing.”
Jones has said in a prior interview that he technically signed off on Evans’ hire, but only at White’s recommendation. Jones could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
During a recent court hearing, an official with Child Protective Services said the criminal charges filed as a result of Evans’ investigation of the 15-year-old’s alleged rape may now be dismissed.
Kris Jensen, a Seattle attorney for the man accused of raping the girl, said in a recent interview that Evans’ behavior may have tainted the case.
“His actions appear to be very conflicting with the keeping of a neutral witness,” Jensen said in May. “He shouldn’t be entering into a personal relationship with a witness in a case.”
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465 firstname.lastname@example.org