Husband and wife arrested on Whatcom County child sex abuse charges

Whatcom County Sheriff's deputies arrested a husband and wife Tuesday, Dec. 7, on charges that they sexually abused children living with them seven years ago.

Robert Leland Palmer, 61, has been charged with four counts of first-degree child rape and four counts of first-degree child molestation.His wife, Joann S. Palmer, 59, is facing eight counts of complicity to child rape and molestation.

Both have been booked into the Whatcom County Jail.

The abuse allegedly took place inside the Palmers' home on the Lummi Reservation from 1998 to 2003, when Child Protective Services took custody of the children, according to charging documents filed in Whatcom County Superior Court. The Palmers are not tribal members.

The Palmers took four siblings - three brothers and one sister - into their home after the children's biological parents abandoned them.

In May the girl, now 12 years old and living with an adoptive parent, disclosed that she was sexually abused by Robert Palmer until she left his home at age 5, according to charging documents.

The parent reported it to police, and a sheriff's detective began investigating the allegations and interviewed each of the children. One brother lives with his sister; the two others live in different cities in western Washington.

The brothers also described being physically and sexually abused by Robert Palmer and said Joann Palmer would keep them away from the bedroom when her husband was in there with their sister. They said Joann Palmer would get angry when they tried to tell her about Robert Palmer's abuse, according to charging documents.

Two brothers were 10 years old and the third was 8 when they were removed from the Palmers' house.