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FERRY COUNTY, Wash. - A lawsuit claims that Republic Police Chief and gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp mishandled a child sexual abuse investigation and caused further distress to the victim.
The 2017 lawsuit references allegations brought forward by a then 17-year-old girl in 2013, who claimed that she had been sexually abused by a family member for 12 years. The lawsuit claims Culp and two other law enforcement officers failed to properly report and investigate the allegations.
Culp has responded to the claims, saying that he can't go into many details regarding the active investigation but that his political opponents are using it as an opportunity to smear him.
According to case documents obtained by KHQ, the victim told 23-year-old reserve Republic police officer Matthew Beard, whom she'd been dating, of the abuse that she'd suffered from her stepfather Roy Moore. Under RCW 26.44.0303, Beard was required to immediately report the incident.
Instead, the lawsuit said that Beard first went to the victim's mother and informed her of the allegations. He then allegedly called Ferry County Deputy Sheriff Talon Venturo, who also knew the victim's mother.
The victim's mother later informed Venturo that Moore had denied the allegations and that she believed him.
The victim was later brought to the police department where Venturo and Culp conducted a taped forensic interview of her. The lawsuit claims that during the interview, Culp and Venturo asked the victim disturbing questions about her personal life, sex life and home life and asked her to give detailed descriptions of the sexual acts she engaged in with Moore, as well as a description of Moore's genitalia.
At the end of the interview, the lawsuit claims Venturo and Culp confronted the victim and said they didn't believe her and that she may face prosecution for making a false report.
The victim's grandparents eventually found that neither the molestation allegation or the allegation of false reporting had ever been reported to the prosecutor's office, as required by law. They later reached out to Benton County, where deputies and detectives were reportedly angry and appalled by the way Culp, Venturo and Beard had handled the case.
Ultimately, Benton County detectives were able to gather enough evidence to arrest Moore in 2014 and charge him with multiple counts of child molestation and other crimes, according to the lawsuit. Moore initially pleaded not guilty but after a second victim came forward with allegations of molestation, Moore agreed to plead guilty to two counts of first-degree child molestation. Moore was sentenced to a minimum of 67 months in prison. He was released in December, 2019 and will remain under Department of Corrections supervision as a sex offender for life.
The victim's lawsuit claims she suffered severe emotional distress as a result of Culp, Venturo and Beard's actions.
Culp, in turn, has said that he was not the investigator on the case and that he was only present for one interview of the victim because he was requested.
"When someone files a lawsuit, they can say anything they want and they just kind of throw stuff on the wall to see what sticks. I was there, so I'm named in the lawsuit," Culp said.
Culp has been a figure of controversy in the past, gaining nationwide attention after declaring that he would not enforce the 2018 voter-approved gun-control measure Initiative 1639, which imposed new gun restrictions and raised the age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21.
Culp has also spoken out against Governor Jay Inslee's stay-home order, saying that the governor placed "draconian" restrictions on citizens that "violate our constitution."
The Benton County Prosecutor's Office has also released a statement regarding the case, which reads in part, "While the investigation and prosecution were hampered by the initial Ferry County investigation, the defendant eventually admitted to sexually abusing the victim and pled guilty to two counts of Child Molestation in the First Degree. Mr Moore was given an Indeterminate Sentence with a minimum of 67 months in prison."
The full statement can be read HERE.