BELLINGHAM - The man who tried to grab a woman and two girls off the street before briefly taking a 2-year-old girl from a Bellingham grocery store was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday, Aug. 5, in Whatcom County Superior Court.
Jake Unick, 28, pleaded guilty in May to first-degree kidnapping, two counts of second-degree kidnapping with a sexual motivation and harassment, making threats to kill.
He was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison, with two 18-month sexual motivation enhancements, bringing his total sentence up to 10 years.
The first kidnapping attempt occurred Feb. 22, 2013, in Ferndale, where a 16-year-old girl reported that a man grabbed her arm, shoved something sharp into her ribcage and told her to keep walking. His grip on her arm would tighten whenever people were nearby and he threatened multiple times that he could kill her if he wanted to. He threatened to spray her with a substance, and she saw a keychain attached to a pink case that looked like a pepper spray container. When she saw a friend, she pushed her attacker away as his grip loosened and ran toward her friend. She went to a bar on Main Street, where police were called.
On the morning of March 1, 2013, Unick grabbed a 13-year-old girl as she was walking to her school bus stop on West Bakerview Road, according to court documents. He told her, "Do as I say, or else," and she screamed "No!" He then punched her in the face and sprayed her with pepper spray. She was able to run, and though he followed her for a while, she got away.
Less than 12 hours later, a 24-year-old woman reported being attacked in a similar way in the same area. She ran screaming to her apartment on West Bakerview after he sprayed her with pepper spray twice and told her, "You're gonna come with me; you're gonna do as I say." She got help from a neighbor who called 911. Both victims gave similar descriptions of their attacker to police.
On March 4, a 2-year-old girl went missing at the Bakerview Fred Meyer. After an alert went out and employees began searching for the girl, Unick brought her back inside the store. He told the manager he found the girl outside, but the manager was suspicious and looked at security footage, which showed Unick taking the girl by the hand hurriedly from where she had been near her parents in the middle of the store. He told investigators that the girl told him her parents were outside, but her parents told police she couldn't speak well enough to express that idea.
Unick was a part-time employee at the store but wasn't working at the time, and he didn't follow the store's protocol to bring lost children to customer service. Unick had been outside with the girl for about 10 minutes before bringing her back inside. A medical exam revealed no injury to the girl.
As information about the assaults went public and Unick was questioned about the Fred Meyer incident, Unick's girlfriend realized her pink pepper spray container might have been the one used in the attacks. She had found it in Unick's pockets when she picked up his clothes and when she checked, it was about three-quarters empty. She confronted him, and he admitted to committing the attacks with her pepper spray.
When she asked him what he intended to do with the girl and the woman, "he would only say that he didn't know," according to court documents. She then took him to his parents' home and made him tell them what he had done.
Prosecutor Jeffrey Sawyer read a statement Tuesday from the mother of the 13-year-old girl who Unick tried to grab. The attack took away the girl's sense of security and safety, and has left the girl with lasting anxiety, her mother wrote. The girl still feels uncomfortable around men and panics when she sees people who look like Unick.
"My daughter is still scared and traumatized," Sawyer read. "She still has nightmares."
Unick was emotional as he spoke to the court, clutching a folded piece of paper. He described himself as a sensitive person and said it broke his heart and made him want to cry to hear that the girl was so scared.
"I'm sorry to the families, I'm sorry to the victims and I'm sorry to everybody," he said. "I want to show the kind of person I am, and the person who was shown that day wasn't me. I am tremendously, deeply sorry."
Unick and his lawyer, Mark Kaiman, said that Unick plans to use the services available in prison to address his issues and possibly receive some education or training so he can become a working member of society when he is released. Upon release, Unick will have to register as a sex offender and a kidnapping offender.
Judge Charles Snyder described Unick's behavior as "frighteningly predatory" and said that the unpredictable, random nature of his attacks was discomforting. He hoped that Unick could use his prison time to address his issues and get help so he doesn't repeat his crimes or escalate them.
"I wish we had a crystal ball to know whether this will be the end of this," Snyder said.