Child rape case will be retried

COVID-19 hampered contact with alleged second victim

A difficult and complex child rape trial that took up much of November and ended with a hung jury in Island County Superior Court will get a do-over.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme indicated at a hearing Monday that he will retry 72-year-old Charles Ringer Jr. on charges of rape of a child in the second degree and rape of a child in the third degree.

A date for the new trial has not been set yet.

Both the investigation and the trial were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, the outbreak hampered a detective’s efforts to contact a potential second victim, the prosecutor’s office confirmed. The trial was complicated by safety protocols that required the jurors to sit in the gallery, removed from the intimacy of the jury box.

Tom Przewoznik, the foreman of the jury, said in an interview after the trial that the jurors were evenly split on the question of guilt with only one person changing her opinion during the four days of deliberation. He voted guilty and felt the alleged victim was very credible, although others felt there wasn’t convincing evidence.

“I found her testimony was very powerful,” he said. “I found her to be very genuine.”

Przewoznik said defense attorneys’ “shotgun approach” to defense and focus on the alleged victim’s mother was effective. Even though the woman did not testify or witness any abuse, the jurors spent more time talking about her in deliberations than they did discussing Ringer, he said.

Oak Harbor attorney Chris Skinner will take office as a superior court judge in the new year and will no longer represent Ringer. Mount Vernon attorney Mari Doerner was co-counsel for the trial.

Ringer is a retired Navy and commercial airline pilot who lives on North Whidbey. His stepdaughter, now 20, testified during the trial that he repeatedly and frequently raped her from the time she was 10 to 15 years old.

According to documents received through a public records request, a person purporting to be Ringer’s daughter texted the alleged victim after a story about the charges being filed was published in the Whidbey News-Times.

“There were a few incidents when I was a kid, maybe 10 or 11 that happened to me with him,” the text stated.

The text states that the abuse was the reason that neither she nor her brother are in contact with Ringer; the woman offered to vouch for her, according to the documents.

“I really want to help and I feel obligated to reach out to you,” the text states. “I have no doubt that everything you are saying is true and I am so horrified.”

In a supplemental report, Detective Chris Peabody with the Island County Sheriff’s Office wrote that he was able to contact the woman through email. She responded that she would be willing to speak with him but then stopped responding to his emails and calls in March. The pandemic prevented Peabody from flying to the East Coast to speak with her in person.

In another report, the alleged victim’s mother told Peabody that she was bothered by the fact that Ringer’s ex-wife had gotten a restraining order preventing him from going near his children years ago and that he never spoke with his daughter.