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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington governor candidate Loren Culp faces lawsuit over child sex abuse investigation

The town of Republic, Washington, is seen on Friday, July 27, 2012.  (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

In a long-running lawsuit, a woman accuses police and deputies in Ferry County of failing to properly investigate when she reported a pattern of rape and molestation spanning 12 years of her childhood.

Among the defendants is Loren Culp, who is now the police chief in the town of Republic and a Republican candidate for Washington governor. The lawsuit alleges Culp and two other law enforcement officers intimidated the victim, threatened to charge her with making false claims and failed to report her allegations to child welfare authorities as required by law.

The lawsuit was filed in 2017, before Culp announced his gubernatorial bid and before he became a celebrity among conservatives for refusing to enforce gun restrictions approved by Washington voters in 2018.

The victim was 17 when she first reported the sexual abuse in late 2013. Although Ferry County authorities quickly dismissed her story as “made up,” the Benton County Sheriff’s Office launched its own investigation after the victim’s grandparents got involved, leading to the 2014 arrest of a male relative, Roy A. Moore Jr. Benton County authorities reported a second young woman came forward to say Moore had molested her, but it was too late to file charges.

Moore pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree child molestation in early 2015, as prosecutors agreed to drop additional charges of child rape and incest. He was sentenced to 67 months in prison but was released in December. Now 57, he will remain under state supervision as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

“Beyond living with the emotional issues devolved from years of sexual molestation, (the victim) continues to deal with severe emotional distress and mental anguish as a result of being taken advantage of, intimidated, abused, abandoned and betrayed by the people she was taught to respect and trust – the police,” the lawsuit states.

The Spokesman-Review generally does not name victims of sexual abuse.

The Seattle Times first published a story about the lawsuit on Thursday. The lawsuit, which was filed in Lincoln County and transferred to Ferry County Superior Court, seeks unspecified damages for the “extreme and outrageous” conduct of Culp and the other officers involved.

Culp – one of several Republicans hoping to challenge Gov. Jay Inslee in November – has generally denied the allegations in the lawsuit.

In an interview with The Spokesman-Review, Culp emphasized that he was not in charge of the abuse investigation, and that the alleged sexual abuse occurred outside the city of Republic. He said he only assisted Ferry County sheriff’s Deputy Talon Venturo.

“I was not the investigator,” Culp said. “The alleged crime did not happen in my jurisdiction. I had no say-so on how it was investigated, or who investigated, or whether there was an arrest, or whether charges were brought. I was there as a backup officer because that other officer was by himself.”

According to a report written by Venturo, he received a call on Nov. 21, 2013, from Matt Beard, who was a reserve officer for the city of Republic.

Beard, who was 23 at the time, had been dating the teenage victim. He told Venturo about the victim’s allegation that Moore had been molesting her since she was 5. According to the lawsuit, Beard had earlier that day met with the victim’s mother.

Venturo interviewed the victim and obtained a search warrant so he could provide the victim’s mother with a digital recorder. The mother concealed the device and tried to obtain a taped confession from Moore, but he denied the allegations.

After speaking with Moore themselves, Venturo and Culp believed he was telling the truth and decided to interview the victim again. According to the lawsuit, the officers asked the teen “disturbing questions about her personal life, sex life and home life and asked her to provide detailed descriptions of sexual acts engaged in with Roy Moore.”

In a report filed on Jan. 8, 2014 – more than six weeks after the interview with the victim – Culp wrote that he “felt she was not being truthful” because she shifted in her seat, shuffled her feet and lost eye contact.

“We both felt strongly that the allegations were made up and the decision was made to not make an arrest,” Culp wrote.

The victim was sent to stay at Beard’s home that evening. The lawsuit alleges he “took advantage of the distraught and vulnerable 17-year-old and ultimately engaged in sexual relations with her,” a claim his attorney denied in a court filing. Later that night, the victim went to her grandparents’ home.

Beard is now a deputy with the Gilliam County Sheriff’s Office in north-central Oregon.

The victim’s mother served as treasurer for Culp’s gubernatorial campaign until early this year.

Beard, Culp and Venturo never reported the victim’s allegations to the state Department of Social and Health Services as required by law, according to the lawsuit. Benton County authorities launched their investigation into Moore after learning that some of the abuse had occurred within their jurisdiction, the lawsuit states.

Asked whether he believes Moore committed the crimes for which he pleaded guilty, Culp told The Spokesman-Review, “I have no clue.”

Culp, who became Republic’s police chief in October 2016, said the allegations in the lawsuit belie his 10-year law enforcement career.

“There are people right now that are in state penitentiary on sex crimes that I have investigated, including child rape,” he said.