A couple on the run from the law left a problem floating behind in Penn Cove.
David Elm, Carlyn Roberts and her elementary-school-age son had been living on an old boat that had been anchored near the Coupeville Wharf for more than two years.
The two adults were arrested in July and boy was taken by Child Protective Services.
The boy was convinced that Elm is a serial killer, and he told law enforcement a harrowing story of neglect, threats and abuse, according to court documents.
Elm was charged in Island County Superior Court with assault of a child in the third degree and intimidating a witness. Roberts was charged with tampering with a witness.
A judge authorized $10,000 arrest warrants on both of them after they failed to appear for a court hearing.
A vehicle registered to Elm was involved in a hit-and-run collision near Bozeman, Mont., on Sept. 26, but the investigation did not tie him to the crash, according to a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office in Montana.
Last Wednesday, the 38-foot wooden boat the couple left behind broke free from its anchor in high winds and traveled west, running aground on a beach in front of an unoccupied house.
Mark Saia, the captain of the historic schooner Suva, has had experience saving beached boats in the cove, so he got the boat floating over the weekend.
“I wanted to put it back on the anchor just to make sure it’s not a hazard to the Suva or anyone else,” he said.
Saia said his plan had been to donate the boat, which he said is considered abandoned under the law, to the Coupeville Maritime Heritage Foundation. His idea, he said, was to start a fund to help the boy who had lived on the boat — and allegedly had been abused — for so long.
But after freeing the boat, Saia said he was “accosted” by people who said they were Elm’s friends and had been looking after the boat. They took the boat and anchored it back to the buoy.
The state Department of Natural Resources was notified about the abandoned boat, according to the Island County Sheriff’s Office.
In July, a deputy investigated a report of a scared 11-year-old boy who showed up at the door of a Central Whidbey house, carrying a teddy bear and looking for help. A deputy found the boy, along with Elm and Roberts, in a truck that had run out of gas on the side of the road. Roberts was intoxicated and had kicked out the windshield.
When the deputy tried to talk to the boy, Elm got into the boy’s face and threatened to beat him; his mother, Roberts, told him not to be a snitch, the deputy’s report states.
A deputy took the boy into protective custody. The boy said he doesn’t get to eat or bathe very often on the boat. Elm regularly threatened to kill him and abused Roberts in front of him, according to the report.