Ronald Guthrie, 64, failed to show up for what was scheduled to be the last day of his trial in Palmer on Tuesday. The jury convicted him anyway, on three counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and two counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.
And it didn’t take long for the U.S. Marshals Service to find him: They arrested Guthrie in Puyallup, Washington on Wednesday. Alaska State Troopers assisted, and a troopers spokesperson said Guthrie had bought a plane ticket out of Alaska and was hiding at a family member’s home. He was arrested without a struggle.
Guthrie’s medical issues had helped get him out of jail prior to the trial, said Assistant District Attorney Brittany Dunlop, who had argued against his release. After about a week of trial, Guthrie asked for a continuance Monday, again due to health problems, Dunlop said. On Tuesday, Guthrie’s court-appointed third-party custodian awoke to find him gone, the prosecutor said.
Guthrie had heard evidence of his abuse of children going back more than three decades and “pretty much saw the writing on the wall,” Dunlop said.
“The level of sentence he would have been facing, or is facing, and his age, it’s pretty much a certainty that he was going to spend the rest of his life in jail,” Dunlop said. “So the stakes are really, really high.”
Court documents show Guthrie was indicted and put on trial in the mid-’80s for alleged sexual abuse. That case ended in a hung jury. Investigators sent reports of more sexual abuse against a second victim to prosecutors in 2007, but Guthrie was not charged at the time.
Then, in 2014, Guthrie was accused of molesting a third girl and charged in that case and the 2007 case. All three were around the age of 9 when they were victimized.
Dunlop said the jurors received a special instruction that they could consider Guthrie’s failure to show up at the trial as evidence of his guilt. It took the jury about an hour to convict Guthrie, she said.
The trial had included testimony from all three victims, one now in her teens, another in her 20s and the first known victim, who is now in her 40s.
Guthrie could not be charged again for the case from the ’80s. But Dunlop said the victim in that case helped get the conviction in the subsequent cases by letting investigators record a phone call between her and Guthrie.
“It was a story that she hadn’t shared with anybody in 30 years,” Dunlop said. “And she, I think, felt a great deal of shame and embarrassment for not being able to tell her story before in a way that protected kids down the line in the future. But she put together a lot of gumption to be able to participate in that investigation.”
Guthrie is being held at the Pierce County Jail in Washington pending extradition back to Alaska.
Source: pps Alaska