Ex-Ferndale assistant wrestling coach allegedly raped girl while she slept, records show

Bail set at $50,000 for ex-Ferndale coach accused of raping three

Bail was set at $50,000 for Dalton Jacob Cristelli, 20, a former part-time assistant wrestling coach for the Ferndale School District, on May 31, 2019, in Bellingham, Wash. He was arrested May 30 on suspicion of three counts of rape.
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Bail was set at $50,000 for Dalton Jacob Cristelli, 20, a former part-time assistant wrestling coach for the Ferndale School District, on May 31, 2019, in Bellingham, Wash. He was arrested May 30 on suspicion of three counts of rape.

A former part-time assistant wrestling coach for the Ferndale School District who is accused of raping three girls assaulted one while she slept and also had a hidden folder with nude photos of teenagers on his cellphone, according to Whatcom County Superior Court records.

Dalton Jacob Cristelli, 20, was arrested on suspicion of second-degree rape, third-degree rape and third-degree child rape. Official charges were filed Tuesday, but specifics were not immediately available.

Cristelli’s bail was set at $50,000 at his first appearance on May 31. He was bailed out of Whatcom County Jail on June 4, court records show.

Cristelli’s arraignment is scheduled for June 14.

On May 23, the Ferndale Police Department received a phone call from the Ferndale School District regarding a sex crime. It was reported that a 20-year-old former Ferndale School District wrestling coach had sex with a 15-year-old female student.

Another woman, now 18, who told police that Cristelli had sexually assaulted her when she was underage, learned Cristelli had sex with the 15-year-old and reported that incident to the school district, according to court records.

Cristelli was employed with the district from January 2019 to March 2019, according to Erin Vincent, communications coordinator for the Ferndale School District.

The district reported the allegation to the Ferndale Police Department and requested an investigation.

“The Ferndale Police Department initiated an investigation with the full cooperation and support of the district, which has resulted in the arrest of the former coach,” Vincent told The Bellingham Herald.

Vincent said there is a four-step protocol staff follow whenever a student reports sexual assault or violence. The protocol is non-negotiable, is reviewed by all district staff on an annual basis and was followed when they received the allegations regarding Cristelli, Vincent said.

The protocol for the district is:

Believe, support and validate. Every time. No exception.

Tell the student you are going to contact the school counselor.

Determine if a report is required. School employees are mandatory reporters and in cases involving minor students, we have a duty to protect students by reporting any alleged incidents of sexual assault or violence.

Contact the school counselor who will tell the student that they are required to report to law enforcement or Child Protective Services and invite the student to participate in the report.

“The safety of students is the district’s top priority and we continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement as they pursue this investigation,” Vincent said.

Dalton Cristelli.jpg
Ferndale resident Dalton Jacob Cristelli, right, makes his first appearance in Whatcom County Superior Court on May 31. He is accused of raping two underage girls and a female incapable of giving consent. Next to him is his attorney Bob Butler. Kie Relyea The Bellingham Herald

Assaults reported

The now-18-year-old woman told police May 29 she disclosed to Cristelli’s brother that Cristelli had assaulted her in early 2016, when she was 15. Cristelli’s brother told her, and a friend who had overheard the conversation, that he knew Cristelli had had sex with a 15-year-old, according to court records.

The woman reported the information to Ferndale High School staff.

Detectives then interviewed the 15-year-old student. She told detectives she met Cristelli while he was working as a wrestling coach, according to court records.

The girl told detectives they used to flirt in person and over various social media platforms. In March 2019, Cristelli picked the girl up from Ferndale High School before she attended a friend’s party. She told detectives Cristelli knew her age because she told him she was 15, court records show.

The girl told detectives Cristelli took her back to his Ferndale apartment and had sex with her, records state. Cristelli then dropped the girl off at her friend’s party.

He asked the girl to delete all communications between the two of them, which the girl did except for the last month, court records show.

A now 21-year-old woman also called Ferndale detectives to report that Cristelli had assaulted her multiple times when she was 16, according to court records.

The woman told detectives she and Cristelli were in a relationship, but her mother made her end it, records state.

The woman told detectives that when she was 16, she was sick and laying on her couch at home. She fell asleep and awoke to Cristelli sexually assaulting her, records show.

The woman was asleep at the time of the assault and incapable of giving consent.

The woman told detectives that Cristelli sexually assaulted her while she slept on approximately six occasions, the records state.

During the interview with detectives, the woman also said Cristelli requested and received “a lot of naked pictures of teenage girls,” court records state. One of the pictures the woman saw was identified as one of the other victims.

The woman later learned that Cristelli had a hidden application on his phone under a calculator that “contained his saved files of naked pictures he had received from girls,” court records show.

The woman said she has not spoken with Cristelli in several years.


Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services: 24-hour Help Line: 360-715-1563, Email:

Lummi Victims of Crime: 360-312-2015.

Bellingham Police: You can call anonymously at 360-778-8611, or go online at

Reporter Denver Pratt joined The Bellingham Herald in 2017 and covers courts and criminal and social justice. She has worked in Montana, Florida and Virginia.