Crime

Birch Bay man gets jail, treatment for molesting girl

A Birch Bay man will get sex offender treatment after already spending about six months in jail for molesting a girl younger than 8, a Whatcom County judge ruled last week.

The girl reported to Lummi police in May 2014 that a man she knew, Frank Dion Morris, 45, had touched her private areas under her clothes.

She recounted specifics about the abuse — a “big secret,” she said — in a follow-up interview with a detective at the Brigid Collins Family Support Center. She reported Morris touched her about 10 times, and the last time had been two months earlier.

Police spoke with Morris at his work. He said he babysat the girl six or seven days a week, according to charging papers. Detectives told him what the girl had accused him of. Morris took deep breaths and crossed his arms.

“I might have touched her once or twice in the last month,” he said.

He told police he had made a mistake.

Officers arrested Morris on charges of child molestation.

At the time Morris had no felony history. In the ’90s he was convicted of about a dozen misdemeanors — mostly driving offenses — but there’s a gap in his court record from 2001 to 2012, when he was clean and sober. He started drinking again around 2013. A Department of Corrections inquiry states he didn’t know how many times he molested the girl, because he was under the influence of alcohol when it happened.

He spent about six months in jail before his bail was reduced to $15,000, and he posted bond. He pleaded guilty last October to two counts of child molestation in the first degree.

Since his arrest Morris has been getting treatment for his substance abuse, and counseling for the sex offense. Psychological tests suggested he was at low risk to commit another sex offense, and that he would be a good candidate for treatment, according to his case file.

The plea bargain recommended a special sex offender alternative sentence of up to five years of counseling, with a suspended prison sentence. So if he fails to follow through on treatment he faces at least 67 months in prison, and a maximum of life behind bars.

The girl and her family did not appear in court at Morris’ sentencing hearing Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Morris, a commercial crabber, made a brief statement to Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis. He said he knows there are resources that can help him. He plans to write an apology the girl — something that hadn’t occurred to him, he said, until his counselor suggested it.

“I’m looking forward to doing everything I can to make this right,” he said.

Montoya-Lewis approved the plea deal.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

  Comments