WENATCHEE — A Peshastin man repeatedly accused of child abuse over the years, but never charged, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of rape, molestation and incest.
Chelan County sheriff's deputies said Theron Jay Heideman, 50, is suspected of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old child multiple times roughly three years ago. He was booked into the Chelan County Regional Justice Center about noon Thursday.
Investigators said the child disclosed allegations of rape and sexual abuse to counselors at a Wenatchee school in early February. Another child in the family confirmed the alleged victim had made similar statements in the past. Deputies said there was no previous record of the abuse being reported to police or the state Department of Social and Health Services.
Although Heideman has never been prosecuted for physical or sexual abuse of a child, allegations of abuse are the subject of a lawsuit brought by three of his adult children against DSHS in 2011. The lawsuit accuses the agency of failing to adequately intervene to protect Heideman's children while they were minors.
Family members reported abuse by Heideman multiple times between 1999 and 2009, but investigations by DSHS Child Protective Services produced no findings. In most cases, the children when interviewed denied abuse and contradicted each other’s allegations, CPS caseworkers said.
Reports concerning the family grew so commonplace that then-Chelan County Sheriff’s Detective Mike Hartnett refused to look into a 2006 claim of abuse forwarded by the children’s grandmother, saying “there is nothing new to investigate,” according to court records.
The three adult children argue caseworkers made missteps such as interviewing children in the presence of their suspected abuser; dismissing some complaints without investigation because of the source; and failing to interview people who may have had pertinent information. The lawsuit was thrown out by a Douglas County Superior Court judge, but then reinstated on appeal last year. It's currently set for trial in December. Heideman himself is not a defendant in that case.
Another minor child in the family allegedly reported sexual abuse by Heideman in 2015, according to family court documents. That case too was investigated by the sheriff's office, but again no charges were filed, and Chelan County Superior Court Judge Alicia Nakata ruled there was not enough evidence to place a protective order barring Heideman from contact with the child.
Judge Lesley Allan ordered Heideman held on $100,000 bail Friday morning. He has yet to be charged.
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123