Judge Donald Eaton has granted former Orcas High School teacher Gerald Grellet-Tinner a new trial after a lead investigator on the case was accused of misconduct. A new trial is scheduled for Dec. 5. The defendant was released from custody on Sept. 20 after Judge Eaton announced his ruling.
A jury found 59-year-old Grellet-Tinner guilty of two counts of Sexual Misconduct in the First Degree in late June. He was accused of having a sexual relationship with one of his students, who was also his teaching assistant, in October 2015. 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. The student in this case was 19 at the time of the sexual relationship. She is 20 now.
In late July, the victim told an advocate in the prosecutor’s office that she was having a sexual relationship with the case’s lead detective Stephen 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.
“The investigation on the allegation came back as unsubstantiated. I absolutely stand behind him as I would any of my guys whose allegations were found to be unfounded,” said Krebs.
The report was submitted to Grellet-Tinner’s attorney Robert Butler in early September. Gaylord filed a protective order that stated neither side could discuss contents of the report with the public. On Sept. 14, the protective order was released, and Butler filed a motion to dismiss the conviction of Grellet-Tinner based on information discovered during Sigman’s investigation.
The report contains email records and interviews with Parker, the victim and her mother as well as correspondence with her advocate. Parker strongly denied the accusations, saying that he never had any type of inappropriate relationship with the victim.
According to the report, the advocate recalled Parker saying in the aftermath of the allegation that the victim “seduces people” and “you know she set him [Grellet-Tinner] up.”
The advocate concluded, in reference to Parker: “I believe her. I believe it happened. I think she feels really bad.”
The victim told Sigman that she and Parker had become close friends but she “made the story up.” She said her motivation for lying was that she was very upset and felt abandoned by Parker once the trial was over.
Sigman could not find evidence of an inappropriate relationship between Parker and the victim, but had a list of “curious things” that came up during the course of the investigation.
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 afterwards. She also thought Detective 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.
Parker and the victim exchanged 69 emails from October 2015 to January 2016. Sigman found it “interesting” that there wasn’t any other email correspondence between Detective Parker and the victim from January 2016 and beyond – particularly when there was “so much to begin with.”
Sigman wrote, “It abruptly stops. Was there some other means of communication?”