Crime

Patriarch of Bellingham Highland Games charged with molesting children

A Bellingham grandfather known for organizing a celebration of Scottish heritage was charged this week with molesting two girls over the past decade, and the sexual assault of a tenant in spring 2016.

Whatcom County Sheriff’s detectives launched an investigation in October 2016, when a young woman reported Glen Alan Winchester, 72, molested her from the ages of 12 to 14. At that age she had been staying at a home on Jones Lane with Winchester and his wife, Noma, according to charging papers.

The girl described one day when Winchester pulled her into a bedroom, locked the door and started to undress. She pushed him away and ran outside, she reported. According to the girl’s story, at that moment Noma Winchester returned home in the driveway, but told her not to tell anyone about what happened.

At least three other times, the girl recounted, she could not stop Glen Winchester from molesting or raping her: in a trailer, in a minivan, and inside the home. She recalled Winchester drilled two sets of peepholes in the wall of a bedroom she stayed in. Detectives found the drilled holes, as described by the girl.

As the investigation unfolded, police learned that another teen outside of northwest Washington made three reports that reached Child Protective Services, alleging that Winchester molested her, too. She stated Winchester sexually touched her at a home he owns in Whatcom County.

The two girls don’t know each other.

Later detectives spoke with a woman in her 50s, who reported Winchester made sexual advances when she lived in a trailer on his property in 2016. Around Easter she told her landlord, Winchester, that her toilet wasn’t working, according to her report. She was bent over it when he walked into the room, came up behind her, and sexually assaulted her over her clothes, charging papers say.

Deputies arrested Winchester on March 16. Superior Court Commissioner Pamela Englett set bail at $20,000, and in a few hours Winchester posted bond.

Six charges – second-degree attempted rape of a child, two counts of second-degree rape of a child, two counts of first-degree child molestation, and fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation – were filed Tuesday in Whatcom County Superior Court.

For about two decades Winchester organized the region’s popular Bellingham Scottish Highland Games, a massive celebration of Scottish heritage, music, culture and sports. He continued to serve as director of the games in recent years, amid family tragedies. A grandson, Jesse, 22, was shot to death in Lynden in 2011, during a botched drug rip-off set up by Winchester’s son, Jeremiah. Jesse’s brother, Jordan, died months later, at age 21. Noma Winchester died in July 2015.

Days before Glen Winchester’s arrest, his son Jered, the current president of the Bellingham Highland Games Association, announced the 57th annual event had been canceled due to rising costs, loss of a grant and a lack of participation. Organizers hope to bring back the games in 2018.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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