LYNDEN - A Seattle firefighter faces three counts of child rape on charges he had sex with a 15-year-old Lynden girl who ran away from home.
Over the past year Michael James "Suey" Sulak, 52, got to know the girl through the Northwest Washington Theatre Group. He worked on musicals alongside members of the girl's family. She later told detectives she felt Sulak "really listened to her."
On the night of a show at Meridian High School in the fall, Sulak and the girl had sex twice in the auditorium, according to charges filed Tuesday, Feb. 18, in Whatcom County Superior Court.
That stayed a secret for about a month. Then on the day after Christmas the girl's father reported she'd gone missing. Sulak called her dad to say she'd shown up at his house earlier, asking for a ride to a church function. Not realizing she'd gone missing, he claimed, he agreed to help her, according to the charges.
She couldn't be found for four days.
Detectives believe in reality she'd gone over to Sulak's house west of Ferndale and stayed in his camper. They had sex there, according to the charges. Authorities later found selfies the girl had taken in the trailer with her iPod. Time stamps showed the pictures were taken that day.
According to the charges, the girl wanted to go with Sulak to Seattle, where he has worked as a firefighter for 15 years. He's an acclaimed firehouse chef whose intricate recipes have been featured on the TV show "Evening Magazine" and his very active personal corner of the blog FirehouseChefs.com, Suey's Beanery.
Prosecutors believe he tried to convince the girl to not come along that weekend, but eventually he relented and took her. They had sex once more in his truck, near the parking lot of a fire station in Queen Anne, according to the charges.
The girl returned home Dec. 29.
Photos on her iPod from the weekend had been "geo-tagged" in Seattle, wrote Deputy Prosecutor Shannon Connor, meaning geographic data in the device confirmed where she'd gone. Detectives found text messages - with Sulak's phone number listed in her contacts as "Lover" - where the two talk about "how they loved each other" and "being together someday."
Sulak knew she was 15 years old, and wasn't sure if she'd turned 16 yet. He confessed to having sex with the girl four times, according to Connor's affidavit.
"He admits that it was wrong that he made an error in judgment," the deputy prosecutor wrote.
Sulak has worked for the Seattle Fire Department since January 1999. He went on disability leave Feb. 8, said Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore, in a brief statement released via email Tuesday.
Sulak is now on paid administrative leave. Moore declined to comment further.
Sulak has a wife and four grown children. He claims, on his LinkedIn profile, to have a master's degree from Fuller Theological Seminary.
Prosecutors charged him with three counts of third-degree child rape, a class C felony, and one count of unlawful harboring of a minor, a gross misdemeanor. He's being represented by private attorney Robert D. Butler.
Superior Court Commissioner Karen Lerner set bail at $50,000. Sulak has since been released on bond. He's scheduled for arraignment Friday, Feb. 21.
Mike Sulak of the Seattle Fire Department does a cooking demonstration for a city website, seattlechannel.org.