Editors note: Some people may find details of this case disturbing
A 53-year-old Spirit Lake man is in the Kootenai County Jail on a $200,000 bond, accused of sexual battery of a minor 17 or under, and providing shelter to a runaway juvenile.
In the police report, Michael Deherrera denies the charges, but the 17-year-old girl he was living with told a very different story. The teen girl was reported missing from Spokane by her family in early 2021. Because the girl is underage, and potentially a victim of sexual abuse, we will not be naming her.
According to the police report, dispatchers directed officers to Deherrera's home on West Madison in Spirit Lake on July 13. The report said that a relative called dispatch to say the missing girl was being kept at a home there. Officers arrived and made contact with Herrera. According to the report, when they told him the girl he was living with was an underage runaway he said "now, that's news."
Officers asked why he was living with the girl, and Deherrera said the girl had issues with her family.
From the report:
"Don't take her back home." He told me that [victim] is a great lady and that 'no harm had come to her from me.' He reiterated that he did not know that she was a missing person by saying it was 'all new to me.'"
The report says that Herrera met the girl through a business arrangement. Because he was disabled, she helped him deliver food with the company DoorDash. When asked how they met, Herrera couldn't remember. "I think it was online or something like that. I can't recall to be quite honest. Maybe even something as simple as Craigslist."
The police report says the officer suspected he was lying, and decided to try speaking with the teen girl. He walked behind the home, where Deherrera said that he and the girl lived in an RV. Deherrera's mother lived in the main home. The girl, according to the police report, was very trepidatious about speaking with officers. She said that she didn't want to say something that contradicted Deherrera, and had information that would likely send him to jail.
Officers spent time speaking with her, the report says, explaining "what my role as a police officer was in this situation. I explained that I was there to help her and get her the assistance that she needed. Further, I recognized that she has likely been in and out of exploitative and abuse situations... I elected to pursue a soft and generalized line of questioning to ease her discomfort."
Eventually, the teen said that she met Herrera on a social media app called Whisper, and they met in a hotel room in Spokane Valley in March and April of 2021. They stayed in the hotel for four or five weeks, and then they moved into an RV at the West Madison property in Spirit Lake. According to the police report, the officer then said that in his experience, these kinds of situations usually involve a sexual component and asked if that was the case with her.
The report says the 17-year-old girl responded: "I've seen pretty much everything sexual that there is." The report shows that she said that she and Deherrera had sex, in different ways, on a nearly daily basis. She said often it was unprotected.
Officers arrested Deherrera and are investigating possible charges against Deherrera's mother. The report says that officers spoke to his mother and asked her if she thought it was strange that her 53-year-old partly physically disabled son was living in an RV in her backyard with a teenage girl. She told them she "didn't get involved." The report says "further investigation will be conducted with respect to this."
Officers contacted the teen runaway's mother who, according to the report, "said she wanted nothing to do with [victim.]" The teen is now with a foster family.
Deherrera will be in court for a preliminary hearing Thursday morning.
SPOKANE, Wash. - 53-year-old Michael R. Deherrera was arrested on July 13 after the Spirit Lake Police Department located a missing girl from the Spokane area at his home.
SLPD received a possible information about where a girl from Spokane, who went missing three months earlier, could've been. They went to Deherrera's home, where he confirmed she had been living with him for several months. A short time later, officers located the missing girl at the home.
Deherrera was arrested and booked into the Kootenai County Jail for sexual battery of a minor and providing shelter to a runaway juvenile.
The investigation remains ongoing.