Crime

Bellingham man gets 10 years in prison for sex with teen

A Bellingham sex offender must spend 10 years in prison for sexually abusing a teenage girl, a Whatcom County Superior Court judge ruled this week.

John Wayne Lawrence, 49, a high-risk sex offender who lived on Marine Drive, convinced the girl to have sex with him when she was younger than 16, according to charging papers. She came forward in December 2014 when she contracted a sexually transmitted disease.

She told police they had intercourse several times at Lawrence’s home and another home in Bellingham, without anyone else knowing.

Officers arrested Lawrence and, in a police interview, he admitted to having sex with the girl 10 to 20 times, according to court documents. County prosecutors charged him with 11 sex crimes. He pleaded guilty to three of those felony charges, including rape of a child in the third degree, in April.

The plea deal reached by Deputy Prosecutor Shannon Connor and Deputy Public Defender Maialisa Vanyo suggested Lawrence serve a sentence of 7 ½ years. The Department of Corrections advised 8 ½ years, at the top end of the standard range for someone with Lawrence’s criminal history.

Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis, however, found good cause Tuesday morning, June 2, for an exceptional sentence of 10 years behind bars, in part due to Lawrence’s past misconduct.

A total of five victims have been identified throughout the years, according to the Department of Corrections.

Court records show Lawrence, a longtime Bellingham resident, molested a girl in the mid-1990s. She was younger than 10. A judge granted him a special sex offender sentence, but he failed to finish the program and ended up serving more than five years.

He was accused again of child molestation in the first degree in 2007 in Whitman County, though those charges were later greatly reduced to misdemeanor assault in the fourth degree.

Over the course of last year’s investigation, Lawrence admitted to sexually touching another preteen girl, according to court records.

Often when asked about his actions, Lawrence brings up how he was molested himself at a young age, wrote his Corrections evaluator, Rhonda Matt, in a pre-sentencing report.

“While this may be a true statement,” Matt concluded in her report, “it is of the utmost importance to become completely accountable for his actions and not blame the past.”

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Dispatcher blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog and follow him on Twitter at @bhamcaleb.

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