Bellingham dad whose CPS battle went viral gets jail for trapping caseworkers in elevator

Cleve Goheen-Rengo looks at baby clothes for his three children in a Bellingham apartment, Dec. 2, 2014.
Cleve Goheen-Rengo looks at baby clothes for his three children in a Bellingham apartment, Dec. 2, 2014.

A Bellingham man whose battle with Child Protective Services went viral has been sentenced to jail for two felonies, after a jury found him guilty of restraining two state workers in an elevator at the Whatcom County Courthouse.

The story of Cleve Allen Goheen-Rengo, 25, aka Cleave Rengo, and his young children fanned across social media through and other advocacy web pages in 2014, when he and his partner said they were being bullied by CPS for their beliefs in home birth and a holistic lifestyle.

State authorities said they got involved because the children appeared underweight, underfed and at risk of abuse because of alleged domestic violence in the home, among other concerns about their health.

Since then the family has been in a complex, drawn-out custody battle.

Goheen-Rengo met with the children for a supervised visit June 10, 2016, on the second floor of the county courthouse, 311 Grand Ave. The meetings were held there so he would have to go through a metal detector, to ensure the safety of the children and two caseworkers who watched the visit that day.

One of the workers cut off the meeting when Goheen-Rengo made repeated comments about going home with the children, which he had been warned not to do.

“(Expletive), you’ll be judged for your evil doings,” Goheen-Rengo told a worker, according to charging papers filed in Whatcom County Superior Court. “You’re an ugly person on the inside. … You’re damned for destroying my family.”

Goheen-Rengo followed the workers and children into the elevator and put his foot between the doors to make it impossible for the women to leave, charging papers say. A buzzer rang. Goheen-Rengo said he wouldn’t go until the children smiled. One of the workers warned him that she would call a sheriff’s deputy, and Goheen-Rengo replied, “Fine.”

As she made the call, Goheen-Rengo stepped out of the elevator, according to charging papers.

“This isn’t over,” he said as the door closed, according to one of the workers.

Testimony at trial lasted 1 1/2 days. Goheen-Rengo took the witness stand for an hour. Jurors deliberated for a few hours before finding him guilty on two counts of unlawful imprisonment.

Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder sentenced him to three months in jail, the least amount of time within state guidelines. His public defender plans to ask to delay his report date to jail while Goheen-Rengo appeals the case.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb