Crime

Man arrested in rape at Maritime Heritage Park

Maritime Heritage Park rape suspect appears in court

Lance Rosa appears in Whatcom Superior Court in Bellingham, Monday, June 20, 2016, charged with a kidnapping and rape that occurred in Maritime Heritage Park June 7.
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Lance Rosa appears in Whatcom Superior Court in Bellingham, Monday, June 20, 2016, charged with a kidnapping and rape that occurred in Maritime Heritage Park June 7.

A suspect in a rape at Maritime Heritage Park has been arrested after DNA linked him to the crime, police said Monday, June 20.

The woman reported she’d been walking down Holly Street on the morning of June 7 when a man in cargo pants and a button-down shirt asked her for a cigarette.

He said his name was Chance. They talked for a while and walked into the park together on the boardwalk, according to a probable cause statement read in court this week.

At some point around 7 a.m., she reported, he shoved her from the boardwalk to the ground below. He restrained her as she was forced to perform oral sex on a second man who had been nearby, according to a statement read in court. “Chance” then forced the woman on her back and raped her, she reported.

She recalled him saying this was the third or fourth time something like this happened since he’d come to town.

Two days later police spoke with Lance Joseph Rosa, 36, a man in the park who had a “striking resemblance” to a man in a composite sketch, said Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Eric Richey. Rosa told police he’d been sleeping under a wooden bridge in the park, and confirmed he had a pierced nipple, just as the victim had described. Rosa denied having sexual contact with anyone on the day of the rape, according to police.

Police asked if he’d volunteer to give a DNA sample. He agreed to.

While waiting for lab results, Bellingham Police Detective Sue Howell followed Rosa’s trail, from his purchase of a train ticket to Edmonds on June 13, and a ferry ride en route to Port Angeles. The Washington State Crime lab informed police Friday that Rosa’s DNA matched a sample recovered in a rape exam of the victim, according to police.

The detective contacted Port Angeles police, who were familiar with Rosa. He was arrested Saturday on suspicion of the sexual assault. Bellingham police believe he skipped town to avoid arrest.

Since then Rosa has been transferred to Whatcom County Jail.

On Monday in court Rosa listened to the charges with his arms folded, rocking back and forth. Then he sat down with the back of his head to a closed-circuit television camera. At the end of the hearing he shouted something indecipherable about a no-contact order, flapped a court document in disgust, and flipped a middle finger to the courtroom.

Superior Court Commissioner Alfred Heydrich found probable cause to hold Rosa on charges of first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping.

Washington state court records show Rosa has a criminal history dating to 1995, when he was convicted of three felony thefts in Clallam and Thurston counties. He’s been convicted of burglary, possession of methamphetamine and possessing stolen property. He hasn’t been convicted of a serious crime in Washington since 2007.

The deputy prosecutor, Richey, noted warrants have been issued for his arrest about a dozen times in the past.

A public defender, Richard Larson, declined comment, except to tell the court that now is not the time to contest the charges.

Heydrich kept bail at $750,000, an amount set over the weekend.

Detectives are still trying to identify the other man accused of raping the woman. He’s described as white, skinny, perhaps in his 50s or 60s. Police allege Rosa is withholding information about the other man.

Anyone with tips should call Howell at 360-778-8682 or use www.cob.org/tips.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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