Sumas man’s DNA matches abduction, rape cases, charges allege

Edmund R. Olivas, also known as Michael A. Coles.
Edmund R. Olivas, also known as Michael A. Coles. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A DNA test confirmed a link between a Sumas man and repeated abductions and sexual assaults of women in Whatcom County and a girl in California, according to charges filed Monday, June 20.

Prosecutors charged Edmund Richard Olivas Jr., 36, with a dozen felony counts: three counts each of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree rape, felony assault and felony harassment.

Police had arrested him Thursday, weeks after two teenagers reported they’d been abducted by a man, held at knifepoint in his van, and raped.

The abductor had approached to the teens around 8:30 p.m. May 27, at the Cordata bus station in Bellingham, asking for directions to Samish Way, according to the charges. One teen showed him on her phone, but he didn’t seem to pay attention. He asked if they would get in and go there with him. To gain their trust, he offered to let one of them drive.

At one point he had her pull over at an apartment driveway. He got angry and accused them of trying to steal his van. He held a knife to the driver’s throat, according to the charges. He tied up the girls with shoelaces and made them get on the floor.

Over the hours that followed, he drove around the county and forced the teens to perform oral sex on him, according to the charges. He ordered them to reveal information about themselves. He threatened to kill their entire families if anyone found out what had happened.

The man released the teens in rural Whatcom County, without their purses, cellphones or IDs. They asked for directions at a house near Lynden. Out of fear, they didn’t look for a ride. They walked in the dark to Bellingham.

Police put out security footage showing the man, a chubby man in black with a white beard, black-and-white skate shoes, and a black New York Yankees hat. A blurry photo of a gray-green van – which police believed to be the suspect’s Oldsmobile Silhoutte – also was released. Meanwhile, a crime technician compiled a list of Oldsmobile Silhouette vans made from ’97 to ’04 and registered in Whatcom County.

On Thursday, county sheriff’s detectives checked on a gray-green van at Olivas’ house at 4383 Rock Road. They noted the car had the same setup – no console, and booster seats in the back – as the teens had described. They spoke with Olivas but did not tip him off about why they were there. They noticed that he coughed a lot, as the girls had said, and that his shoes looked similar to the skate shoes in the security footage.

Police carried out a search warrant on Olivas’ home and found a black New York Yankees ball cap.

Swabs from the teens turned up a man’s DNA that matched the profile of a man in two other sex cases: the sexual assault of a girl, 11, in California in 2003; and the abduction of a woman, 57, who had been walking home from a bar after the Super Bowl in February 2015.

The Bellingham woman had been walking home from the Grand Avenue Ale House around 11 p.m. Feb. 1, when a man stopped a white four-door car and asked if she needed a ride. Then he got out of the car with a knife and forced her to come with him. He beat her, told her he would kill her and sexually assaulted her as he drove out into the countryside, according to the charges. At one point he choked her with a belt.

She escaped when his car’s wheels got stuck in a muddy ditch off Sorensen Road, about four miles south of Olivas’ home in Sumas. She ran about a half-mile to a neighbor’s house in the morning hours of Feb. 2. She had deep bruising on her neck and appeared to have been beaten, according to the charges.

Two months later, in April 2015, a man named Michael Anthony Coles formally changed his name to Edmund Richard Olivas Jr. In his youth Coles had been convicted of a carjacking in California, according to police.

Charging papers say a crime lab confirmed the DNA from Olivas was a match for the sexual assaults of the Los Angeles girl, the Bellingham woman, and the two Bellingham teenagers. They’re identified only by their initials in charging papers.

Bail for Olivas has been set at $1 million. He’s being held in Whatcom County Jail.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb