UPDATE: 'Vast' number of new victims respond in Mitchusson assault case
By JENNIFER MORRIS AND JUSTINE FREDERIKSEN
Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer
April 1, 2009 · Updated 8:51 AM
Former Poulsbo Mayor Richard 'Mitch' Mitchusson appeared in Kitsap County District Court today on one misdemeanor count of stalking and two misdemeanor counts of assault with sexual motivation, and more charges are pending.
Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Barb Dennis said her office will also bring forward a felony charge of indecent liberties, meaning Mitchusson's case has been moved from the district courts to Kitsap County Superior Court.
He is expected to make a preliminary appearance tomorrow.
After being sworn in to testify, Dennis said the felony charge stemmed from an alleged instance when Mitchusson entered the home of a bed-ridden woman, crawled into bed with her and touched her inappropriately. Dennis said the woman’s gardener let the defendant inside, and came up to remove him after he heard the victim’s cries.
Dennis also said a "vast" number of new victims have come forward.
Mitchusson was arrested by Kitsap County Sheriff's deputies Wednesday after complaints surfaced from several women in Poulsbo, citing unwanted inappropriate physical contacts dating as far back as January 2008 and occurring as recently as this month.
Officers developed probable cause that Mitchusson, 70, displayed a pattern of criminal behavior with at least three adult women, KCSO reports. Mitchusson allegedly visited one victim's home during early morning hours while she was getting ready for work. When she opened her door, according to the victim's statement, he entered, began asking personal questions and touched the woman sexually. The victim, 58, reported Mitchusson returned to her home several times over a period of months, as well as her place of employment, where she hid to avoid him. She told detectives she has since placed a baseball bat by her door, quit a club at which Mitchusson was also a member and has a temporary protection order against him.
Two other victims reported Mitchusson visiting their homes or places of employment unsolicited. One, age 64, stated she has known Mitchusson for years, and said she "noticed that he is becoming more aggressive and sexual in nature," charging papers state. She reported Mitchusson visiting her home, hugging her and touching her backside.
A 48-year-old woman said Mitchusson would visit her at work and hug her, at one point trying to kiss her on the lips. The woman said she did not immediately report to police out of fear of retaliation.
Mitchusson told deputies many of the allegations are untrue and denied much of the inappropriate contact described by victims. He said to deputies "where he comes from in Oklahoma, hugging was just what they did," the papers state. He admitted to fewer visits to the women's homes or workplaces than were reported, and did not recall kissing the 48-year-old on the lips.
Mitchusson was arrested at 2:40 p.m. Wednesday during a routine traffic stop in downtown Poulsbo, where he is a familiar presence. He served as Poulsbo's mayor from 1985 to 1999, previously having worked as a member of the city's Public Works Department beginning in 1975.
Each charge against Mitchusson carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison or a fine of $5,000.
Dennis requested that Mitchusson be held under $250,000 bail, stating he is a significant risk to the community. Spokesman Deputy Scott Wilson said more than 20 potential victims have come forward, in addition to the original three listed in the probable cause statement.
Mitchusson’s defense attorney requested bail be reduced from $70,000 to $25,000, stating that his client was not a flight risk and that he suffered from a form of dementia known as Picks disease.
The judge set Mitchusson’s bail at $200,000, stating that the charges, although allegations, were “serious” and represented a “course of behavior,” not just one instance. He also signed an order of protection barring Mitchusson from contacting any of the three original vicims and any female not related to him.
Those who believe they are a victim, or who have information about this investigation, are asked to contact Detective Chad Birkenfeld at (360) 337-5619 or Detective Steve Duckworth at (360) 337-5669.
The Poulsbo Police Department requested KCSO’s assistance in the investigation. Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade said the request was made to "avoid any conflict."Contact Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer Jennifer Morris and Justine Frederiksen at firstname.lastname@example.org.