Lynden missionary gets 1 year of house arrest for sex abuse of teen

A Lynden missionary and tutor must serve a year of house arrest for molesting a teenage boy, a Whatcom County judge ruled Wednesday, Sept. 14.

The boy, a homeschool student who was 15 years old, had gone to the home of Gary Lee Hawkins, 66, on a morning in late March 2014, according to charging papers. He napped on the couch in the living room until Hawkins woke him up around 7 a.m. for breakfast and his school lesson.

At some point Hawkins stopped the lesson and told the boy to come with him to a bedroom. There he approached the boy from behind and sexually touched him until the boy yanked away Hawkins’ hand. The boy ran to a bathroom. Minutes later the boy found Hawkins in the living room crying. He apologized, and claimed he “snapped” – as if “I wasn’t even there,” Hawkins later told a Department of Corrections investigator.

Weeks after the incident, Hawkins tried to commit suicide by overdosing on medications. He spent about 1 1/2 weeks in the hospital, and his wife told police he was suicidal because he’d inappropriately touched the boy. Hawkins was booked into jail on June 13, 2014, and he posted $10,000 bond a few days later, according to court records.

Hawkins, an active member of two churches in Lynden, had been charged with molesting another boy, in the early 1980s when he was a childcare worker through Hillcrest Chapel in Bellingham. That boy, 7, reported he had been taking naked baths with Hawkins in a trailer, and that he was sexually abused while Hawkins was supervising him. Months later he pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent liberties. Over the next 10 years Hawkins kept out of legal trouble and complied with court orders. Eventually the case was dismissed, and the guilty plea was withdrawn.

Since then he has gone on mission trips to Mexico and Guatemala, where he helped build houses, deliver food and clothes, and work with adults and children with special needs. No allegations of sexual abuse have come to light related to those mission trips.

Hawkins pleaded guilty as charged in the 2014 case to child molestation in the third degree. His lawyer, Mark Kaiman, filed doctors’ letters stating Hawkins has a rare form of dissecting aortic aneurysm – a life-threatening heart condition that requires monitoring by a cardiologist – as well as a neurological disease similar to Parkinson’s.

“In my opinion, incarceration would be a life-threatening event for this gentleman,” wrote his physician, Bruce Pederson.

Also, medical treatment in jail would be a liability for county taxpayers, Kaiman noted. So a plea deal suggested a sentence of nine months of house arrest, the midpoint of the standard six- to 12-month sentence for the crime under Washington state law.

In court Wednesday, Hawkins’ head and hands shook. He tried to read a statement to the judge, but he spoke with a severe stutter that kept him from saying more than a few words. His attorney finished reading a written statement aloud for him.

“What I did was inexcusable,” the statement read. “No one is at fault but me. … I am sorry that whatever good I have done is now overshadowed by the crime I have committed. I will spend whatever time I have left trying to atone for my crime.”

Superior Court Judge Deborra Garrett ordered Hawkins to serve 12 months of house arrest.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb