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Washington father sentenced to prison for rape of girl adopted from Utah polygamous clan

Published September 6, 2012 10:16 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Everett, Wash. • She needs time to heal.

The young woman escaped a polygamous clan in Utah only to be adopted by a Snohomish, Wash., man who sexually abused her for years.

Her adopted father promised to protect her. Instead, he raped and molested her.

The woman on Tuesday asked Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair to send the man to prison for as long as possible. She told the judge that would give her time to get stronger, before she accidentally sees him in the community, at a mall or movie theater.

Fair sentenced the man to six years in prison — the low end under state's sentencing guidelines.

The Herald is not naming the defendant in order to protect the victim's identity.

Meanwhile, state health officials said on Tuesday they are continuing to investigate a complaint against a Washington therapist who recommended that the defendant, wife and victim, who was then a 15-year-old girl, all sleep in the same bed as a way to "bond."

The girl wound up in foster care after spending most of her childhood in a polygamous group, where she was abused. She met the defendant and his wife soon after she was taken away from her birth parents.

The girl and her adoptive parents started seeing a therapist to address what they were told were the girl's "abandonment and attachment issues," court papers said.

That's when the therapist recommended that they all sleep together in the same bed. Police interviewed the therapist, who confirmed that she'd suggested "attachment therapy," Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Adam Cornell wrote in charging papers.

A month after the family took the therapist's advice, the man began sexually assaulting the girl.

The victim told investigators that she was forced to have sex with her father every week. When she attempted to resist, she said he threatened to send her back to her birth parents. He warned her that she would be married off into a polygamous family.

The victim told detectives that the sexual abuse lasted until she left for college in 2010. Detectives began investigating last year after the woman told a mental health professional about the crimes.

Fair on Tuesday declined to sentence the man, 42, under an alternative option for first-time offenders.

The defense requested a Special Sexual Offender Sentencing Alternative that would have sent the man to jail for about a year. He would have been required to undergo years of extensive treatment in the community, while being supervised by the state Department of Corrections.

Defense attorney William Steffener said there are studies that show people sentenced under the alternative program are less likely to commit more sex crimes. The public defender also said that his client would receive better treatment outside prison walls.

Fair explained that, in making her decision, the law required her to give the most weight to the victim's wishes.

A special sentencing alternative would be "too lenient," Fair said. The defendant knew the girl was vulnerable because of her past abuse, yet he took advantage of her.

"To say (she) had a tough start to life is the understatement of the year," Fair said.

The judge said she did give the defendant some credit for sparing the victim the trauma of a trial. He pleaded guilty in June to four sex crimes, including first-degree incest.

The defendant on Tuesday apologized, saying he hoped he could right the wrongs he committed.

The victim wrung her hands and wiped away tears as the man spoke.

Fair complimented the victim for her determination, intelligence and courage. She encouraged the woman to persevere.

"The best thing is a life well-lived in spite of everything you've had to endure up to this point," Fair said.