June 14, 2012 in City

Teacher accused of rape on leave

His cousins say they were abused as children
By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Glover Middle School teacher is on paid leave after a police investigation found enough evidence to support charges of six counts of first-degree child rape.

Those charges were never brought against the teacher, Chris Katke, however, because the statute of limitations had expired, police said.

Spokane Public Schools placed Katke on paid administrative leave in January while the district completes its own investigation for “a complaint of misconduct,” according to a letter ordering him not to report to work until further notice.

School officials would not elaborate on the source of that complaint or whether Katke’s teaching contract has been renewed for next year.

“It is not appropriate for the district to comment on an ongoing investigation,” said Terren Roloff, a district spokeswoman.

Katke, whose mother, Linda Katke, is also a Spokane Public Schools teacher, could not be reached for comment.

The investigation into the 34-year-old’s actions began in early January after two of Katke’s female cousins realized they had been sexually abused by him as children and went to authorities, according to the police department’s file.

“I’m so pissed that no one told me earlier,” one cousin texted the other about Katke, according to the police report. “I stopped coming here (Spokane) b/c no one believed me, and I am angry that he got to u after I told everyone. Sorry. Call me.”

The cousin also texted, “I am concerned he hasn’t stopped. I can’t believe he’s a teacher.”

The Spokesman-Review’s policy is to protect the identities of victims of sex crimes. But in this case, the cousin who police believe suffered the most abuse chose to be identified for this story.

Cat Charbonneau, the younger of the two cousins, said she was victimized by Katke between the ages of 4 and 11. He would have been 13 to 20 years old at the time.

“I was already working up the courage to go to police, but then finding out I wasn’t the only one made me realize this guy was a predator,” Charbonneau said.

More than one relative tried to talk Charbonneau out of going to authorities and excused the behavior, she said. The message to her, she said, was, “there’s no reason for people to get in trouble for what kids do.” The 25-year-old said she also was hesitant to come forward because she felt somehow responsible, like she should have “said no or put up more of struggle” – a common reaction among victims of sex crimes, according to authorities.

Stephanie Barkley, Spokane police sex crimes detective, said she pursued the case because “the victims were credible and sincere. A long time elapsed from the time this happened and (the time) it was reported. But they didn’t appear to have any axes to grind outside of those allegations.”

Charges against Katke were sought by Spokane police based on Charbonneau’s statements because she’s the younger of the two cousins, and Barkley believed those incidents fell within the statute of limitations.

But as the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office contemplated charges, they learned it was too late – the statute of limitations had run out. The case had to be filed within eight years of the last incident or three years after Charbonneau turned 18, authorities said.

According to the police report, Katke performed oral sex on the younger cousin and instructed her to do the same to him, telling her it was a game. He also would ask her to re-enact love scenes from movies or television or mimic what people were doing in a pornographic magazine, the report said.

The incidents took place at Charbonneau’s relatives’ homes in Spokane and her family home in Hillsboro, Ore., the report said.

Katke apologized to the older cousin, according to the police report. Documents also show Katke texted the older cousin: “I am sorry about everything. So, so very sorry.”

Additionally, the police report notes several times that Katke admitted to the abuse of both cousins to various family members and was in counseling earlier this year to deal with the issue.

But despite the admissions, authorities’ hands were still tied by time.

“I suppose it was frustrating because I had these two women who had not come forward with the information until they realized they had both been victims,” Barkley said. “Anyone who reads the report or reads this story might be concerned about where he works. But we don’t have any information from any schools or any school districts that there’s been a pattern of behavior there.”

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