Another man charged with rape in Bellingham’s Maritime Heritage Park

Maritime Heritage Park in Bellingham, Wash.
Maritime Heritage Park in Bellingham, Wash.

A Bellingham man has been charged with forcing a 60-year-old woman to perform oral sex in a homeless camp at Maritime Heritage Park, the second such sexual assault in the park in recent months.

The woman reported she lives in King County but had been staying in Bellingham for a couple days. She was drinking alcohol in the park on Thursday, Aug. 4, with a group of people that included a man she knew only as Mike. At night, when she was intoxicated, she pitched a tent with her boyfriend and another woman, but slept outside herself, according to charging papers.

At some point Mike woke her up, she reported, and they walked to his camp to smoke meth. Then he grabbed her hair and forced her to perform oral sex, according to the charges. Once she stopped he punched and possibly slapped her. She eventually was able to leave.

The woman took her belongings and found a worker on a nearby loading dock. She told the employee to call the police because she’d been raped. She’d suffered bruises on her forehead, a scrape between her eyes, and marks on her neck like she’d been choked, police noted.

She was taken to St. Joseph hospital for a sex crime exam.

In the park police found a rug and a blanket where she said they would be, but no suspect. She described the man, Mike, as white, skinny, in his 40s, with a white beard only on his chin. Later in the afternoon police found a sleeping man in the park who matched that description, Michael Eugene Huskey, 46, but he gave a false name. He wasn’t arrested. Officers showed the woman a photo lineup, with one mugshot showing Huskey, and she identified him as the alleged rapist.

Huskey was booked into jail around 5 p.m. Aug. 5, and charged with rape in the second degree and assault in the second degree. Police collected DNA from clothes, the rape kit, and other evidence at the scene. On Thursday, Aug. 18, a judge in Superior Court granted a motion to consume – to use up – the DNA if necessary when it’s tested by a state crime lab.

It’s the second rape case in recent months involving the park’s homeless population.

In June police asked for the public’s help in identifying two other rapists. Only one suspect has been arrested.

A woman, 44, reported a man who called himself Chance had asked her for a cigarette as she walked past the park around 4:30 a.m. As they walked together he shoved her from a boardwalk, restrained her, and forced her to perform oral sex on another man in the area, according to charging papers. Then the first man, Chance, raped the woman.

Police identified “Chance” as Lance Joseph Rosa, 36, who had been sleeping under a park boardwalk.

A detective spoke with Rosa in the park two days after the incident, and he gave a voluntary DNA sample. Within two weeks a crime lab found the sample matched evidence from the woman’s rape kit. Rosa, who had taken a passenger train and ferry out of town, was tracked down in Port Angeles. He was charged with rape in the first degree and kidnapping in the first degree.

Rosa awaits trial. He’s in jail in lieu of $750,000 bail. The second man in that case still hasn’t been arrested. He’s described as a skinny white man who looked like he was in his 60s, though he could have been younger with a rugged lifestyle.

Huskey’s bail, meanwhile, has been set at $50,000. He has two prior felonies for violating no-contact orders, and four felony convictions for drug crimes.

In December 2014, an officer saw him urinating on the outside wall of a portable toilet at Maritime Heritage. Once confronted, Huskey gave a fake name, Mikel Ryder. Informed he was under arrest, he ran about 20 feet before he was subdued. Police found drugs on him. Huskey pleaded guilty a month later to possession of meth. He served a six-month jail sentence.

City officials have long struggled with how to deal with the large number of homeless people – many of them with addiction and mental health problems – who frequent Maritime Heritage.

As recently as this week, the city of Bellingham announced efforts to make the “urban waterfront gem” of a park a more welcoming place: stewards giving police extra pairs of eyes 10 hours a day, each day of the week; new LED lighting on park trails; a new toilet designed after the Portland Loo, a small bathroom designed to discourage nefarious activity; and more music events and organized games to draw in the public.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb