A 77-year-old man pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of first-degree child rape in Spokane County Superior Court, ending a case in which he was accused of repeatedly molesting a young girl over the course of several years.
Merlyn R. Schmelzer, a former Boeing machinist who has no prior criminal record, is scheduled to be sentenced May 21. The standard minimum sentence for first-degree child rape is nearly eight years in prison.
In an interview with detectives last year, Schmelzer described how he raped the girl, a family member, at his cabin near Loon Lake and at a home in Cle Elum, Washington, according to court records. He claimed she had initiated the contact and that it was “for her pleasure,” the records state.
The abuse occurred on at least a dozen occasions from 2011 to 2013, when the victim was from 8 to 11 years old, Schmelzer told detectives.
The victim also reported that Schmelzer molested her in a swimming pool at a home just outside Spokane city limits. He denied that but told detectives, without prompting, that he had molested her at a movie theater in Airway Heights, according to court records.
The law enforcement investigation began in late 2016 after the victim told a counselor about the abuse and the counselor reported it to Child Protective Services.
In a news release, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said the investigation involved detectives from the agency’s sexual assault unit as well as the Spokane Police Department and the Kittitas County and Stevens County sheriff’s offices.
“Today’s guilty plea is a global resolution to this lengthy investigation, involving several law enforcement agencies in Washington state, and spares the victim from the need to recount the sexual abuse while giving testimony in open court,” the sheriff’s office said.
John Love was the prosecutor on the case. Schmelzer was represented by Spokane attorney Bevan Maxey, who didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
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