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Church volunteer arrested for molesting boys in Oak Harbor
A former youth coordinator at Oak Harbor Lutheran Church was arrested Thursday for allegedly raping and molesting two boys, one of whom he met through the church.
Detectives with the Oak Harbor Police Department had previously investigated 57-year-old Ronald Asplund for similar allegations six years ago and are concerned there may be more victims.
“His pattern seemed to be that he would befriend minor boys from single-parent families,” Detective Sgt. Teri Gardner said.
Asplund appeared in Island County Superior Court Thursday afternoon. Judge Vickie Churchill found that there’s probable cause to hold Asplund on suspicion of three counts of the rape of a child in the second degree and three counts of child molestation in the second degree. She set his bail at $200,000.
Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme described Asplund’s actions as “predatory” and said he’s looking at a tremendous amount of prison time if convicted. He said Asplund admitted to many instances of child molestation beyond what he’s being held on.
Defense attorney Tom Pacher said Asplund suffers from lung cancer and is wearing a device that pumps chemotherapy drugs into his body. He said Asplund has no criminal history.
The Rev. Jeffrey Spencer, lead pastor at Oak Harbor Lutheran Church, said the church community is shocked and deeply saddened by the allegations. He said the church will cooperate fully with the police investigation and is conducting an internal investigation.
“We trust that God will work through the justice system to handle this sort of situation,” he said.
Spencer emphasized that Asplund hasn’t worked as a volunteer in the youth program for months and that the church has a vigorous child protection policy that prevents adults from being alone with children.
“We will be here to support the victims,” he said.
The police started investigating the case last week after a woman reported that Asplund had violated a court order barring him from contacting her 13-year-old son. An officer found that Asplund had given the boy a cell phone; the officer found that it contained sex-related text messages from Asplund.
Investigators soon discovered that Asplund had been molesting both the 13-year-old boy and his 14-year-old friend, according to the report by Detective James Hoagland. Asplund later admitted to the allegations in an interview with the detective, the report states.
Asplund met one of the boys through the church youth program; the teenager described him as a mentor. Asplund was the “middle school ministry coordinator,” the Oak Harbor Lutheran Church website states.
The report indicates that the boys came over to Asplund’s house to play video games; he bought them candy and games. Asplund molested and raped the boys numerous times, even though one of the boys continually told him to stop. In one instance, he molested one of the boys during a “lock-in” event at the church, the report states.
In an interview with the detective, Asplund admitted to molesting three different boys and showing pornographic photos to other children at a youth camp in Arlington, Wash., Hoagland wrote.
“Asplund told us he knew he was wrong for what he had done, and began to cry,” the detective wrote.
Gardner said the police investigated Asplund in 2006 for allegedly molesting a boy, but there wasn’t enough evidence at the time to charge him. She said investigators are concerned that Asplund may have victimized other children in the community. She urges anyone with any information to contact a detective at 360-279-4600.