A San Juan County Sheriff’s detective has resigned the week before a court hearing regarding a child rape case.
Detective Stephen Parker was put on paid administrative leave in September over a different case involving sexual misconduct between a student and her teacher at Orcas Island High School. Parker was put on leave after new evidence implicated his inappropriate involvement with the victim. There is currently an investigation into his conduct.
After his resignation, Parker moved off the island, but was required to return to testify at a hearing for another case in which he served as a detective. On Monday, Dec. 19, Parker testified before Judge E. Donald Eaton at San Juan County Superior Court during a hearing for John William Barker, Jr., 25, of Friday Harbor.
Barker is charged with two counts of rape of a child in the first degree and one count of assault of a child. The hearing was held to prove the admissibility of the confession Barker gave Parker, last spring, to be used in the Jan. 9 trial. Barker will be arraigned on Friday, Dec. 23 and the decision, on whether the recorded confession will be used during trial, will be given then.
Parker is still under investigation for alleged misconduct with the 20-year-old victim in the case involving her former teacher Gerald Grellet-Tinner. In late July, the victim told an advocate in the San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office that she was having a sexual relationship with Parker. She shortly thereafter recanted, but Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord asked the sheriff’s office to conduct an investigation. Sheriff Ron Krebs assigned the inquiry to Detective Lori Sigman from Skagit County.
The 50-page report concluded that the allegation of sexual misconduct between Detective Parker and the victim was not substantiated because both parties said it never occurred, but Sigman had concerns about the situation. Sigman noted similarities with the Grellet-Tinner case: the victim makes an allegation, sees it causes trouble, recants it and then contacts the man in question several times afterward. She also thought Parker’s behavior was odd: he showed up uninvited to trial prep; he suggested the victim wear some of his wife’s clothing to trial and he later asked for photos of what she wore during the trial. Initially, Krebs believed Parker’s innocence, but several weeks after the Sigman report, new evidence came to light and Parker was put on administrative leave. The details of that new information have not been released to the public as the investigation into his conduct is ongoing.
The victim had given DNA evidence to Parker, which helped convict Grellet-Tinner on two counts of sexual misconduct in the first degree in June. According to the Washington state legislature, a teacher cannot have intercourse with a registered student under the age of 21 if he or she is at least five years older than the student. After the report from Sigman, the conviction was dismissed last fall by Judge Eaton. The prosecutor’s office filed an appeal on the ruling and a decision is expected in six months.
“Right now, he has a conviction with an order for a new trial. If the order is reversed then his conviction stands,” said San Juan County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord.
If the court of appeals upholds Judge Eaton’s ruling, Gaylord says the prosecutor’s office will move forward with a new trial.
Watch the Journal for more reports on this trial as well as the Detective Parker investigation.