BELLINGHAM - A Bellingham man was sentenced Thursday, Feb. 28, to more than a year in prison for sexually assaulting a teenager while she pretended to sleep.
Daniel Elmer Rodenberger, 39, aka Daniel Bates, had been accused of sexual misconduct against the victim and her sister when they were younger than 14 years old, but those charges were dropped in 2011.
According to the older sister, they recanted "because their mother wanted Rodenberger back in the home," Deputy Prosecutor Elizabeth Gallery wrote in charging documents filed in Whatcom County Superior Court.
Back then, Rodenberger pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault - for punching the girls' mom - and agreed to serve a suspended jail sentence, effectively giving him a month behind bars.
The girls and their mother were living with Rodenberger at a Samish Way motel in autumn 2012. Most of the time, the older sister slept on the floor. But she fell asleep on the bed late Oct. 27 and woke up to find Rodenberger sexually touching her, according to charging documents. She pretended to sleep.
A day later, the girl reported the crime to police. She claimed that was the second time in a week Rodenberger had sexually touched her.
Police interviewed Rodenberger, who insisted it was an accident. They'd slept in the bed together, he confessed, and when he woke up his arms were around her ribcage. He admitted it was "possible that his hand might have slipped down between her legs" but that he wouldn't "intentionally molest those girls," according to charging documents.
Rodenberger pleaded guilty Thursday to third-degree assault with a sexual motivation. Judge Ira Uhrig ordered him to serve 13 months in prison.
Both girls are now in the custody of Child Protective Services.