Man changes plea in 1987 rape case, faces 144 months

PORT ORCHARD — A former Poulsbo man entered an Alford plea on Sept. 6 to a 1987 statutory rape case from which he avoided prosecution for almost 30 years. The prosecutor will recommend a sentence of 144 months, which equals 12 years.

Ronald Lee Paulson, 71, is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 17 in Kitsap County Superior Court, according to the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office. According to www.courts.wa.gov, under an Alford plea a defendant does not plead guilty but admits the evidence is sufficient for a likely finding of guilt.

According to court documents from 1987, Paulson checked himself into Harrison Medical Center for mental health treatment and told his psychiatrist that he had molested a girl known to him. Paulson later told a police investigator that there were between 20 and 30 incidents of molestation between September 1986 and the following February. Paulson was arrested, charged with first-degree statutory rape, and released on $20,000 bail, but left the state.

Paulson was tracked down in July 1990 in Bakersfield, California and allowed to post $5,000 bond. He pleaded not guilty but left the state before trial began.

In May 2016, the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office contacted the Poulsbo Police Department and advised there was still an active warrant for Paulson’s arrest. Detective David Shurick enlisted the assistance of detectives from several other agencies in the area as well as outside of Washington.

“Using various forms of information and social media websites, a link was found to a person identifying himself as Warron Big Eagle in Pottawatomie County,” Deputy Police Chief Andy Pate said at the time. “Other investigative means were used to confirm the identity of Big Eagle and to verify his real name as that of Paulson, the individual wanted in this case.”

Paulson was arrested by authorities in Pottawatomie County, returned to Kitsap County and booked into county jail on June 23, 2016. Bail was set $500,000.

“The last time he was granted bond he ran for 26 years,” the victim wrote the court, asking that Paulson’s bail not be lowered. “Those 26 years were hell for me. I have lived my life in the shadow of the things that that man has done to me. He ruined my life and all I am asking for is the opportunity to face him in court. … I need to be able to have my day in court with him. I need that closure.”

She added, “I have numbed my pain with drugs all my life. I have been sober since August [2015]. In order to continue on my path to putting my life back together, I need to face my demon. That demon being [Paulson].”

Paulson lived a public life in Oklahoma.

YouTube videos, now removed, showed him performing with his flute at public events. A month before his arrest, Shawnee Outlook magazine reported on his part in an annual arts event to raise money for the revitalization of downtown Shawnee. He worked as a roofing salesman, his wife Debra Big Eagle told the North Kitsap Herald after her husband’s arrest.

Mrs. Big Eagle told the Herald she didn’t know much about his life before they married; she would not say when they married, but online records show her living as Debra Jean Paulson or Debra Jean Big Eagle in 1998-2005 in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

At the time, Mrs. Big Eagle described her husband as “a good, honest, hardworking man” who first started sharing the gospel at RV campgrounds and later gave sermons at his local church.

“He very much loves the Lord,” she said at the time, adding, “People have a right to change. The man who is accused is not the man I’ve spent my life with. It’s not the same person.”

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