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Case could lead to life term for sex offender


A child molester with a history of sex crimes in public places could be jailed for life after being arrested for exposing himself to a girl at NorthTown Mall in Spokane.

Richard Michael Payne, 55, is accused of molesting a 5-year-old girl June 21 as she and her 11-year-old sister were playing in Bumpers Family Fun Center while their mother shopped.

He was arrested Tuesday and remains in jail on $250,000 bond after appearing Wednesday before Superior Court Judge Annette Plese on a first-degree child molestation charge.

If convicted, Payne could be ordered to stay in prison for the rest of his life. State law requires that sex offenders undergo risk assessments before being considered for release from prison.

The law went into effect about five months after Payne molested a 9-year-old girl at a North Division Street store in 2001. The girl was shopping with her mother when Payne grabbed her crotch and buttocks. Police saw him walking on Division as people yelling “pervert!” followed him, according to court documents.

Payne was sentenced in December 2001 to 5 1/2 years but was released on March 3, 2006, according to the Washington Department of Corrections. His probation ended on Aug. 6, 2009.

Payne is a level 3 sex offender, which is the classification considered most likely to reoffend. He was convicted of public indecency in Oregon in 1985 after he was seen fondling himself at a Sears store.

Cheney police also investigated child molestation claims against Payne in 1997 that resulted in two convictions for fourth-degree assault. The victims were 8 and 11 years old. His lawyer said Payne’s mental problems caused him to act inappropriately and that he needed treatment.

“Unless treated, the probability of future re-occurrence is great,” according to the court documents from 2001.

In the latest case, police say Payne approached the girls at the mall last week just after 6 p.m. and rubbed the 5-year-old’s back and buttocks.

The 11-year-old saw Payne expose himself a few minutes later as he stood behind her sister and rubbed the younger girl’s back, buttocks and upper thighs. The girls ran to tell their mother.

The victim’s older brother located Payne inside a mall bathroom, but he ran before he could be contacted, police say.

Police obtained surveillance video of the incident, and sex crimes Detective Jerry Hensley identified the man as Payne.

Hensley said in court documents that Payne confessed to touching the girl “to satisfy his sexual desire toward children.”

“Child luring and molestation incidents in public places are rare, however the children involved in this incident acted appropriately by running away from the suspect and notifying a trusted adult,” police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said in a news release.