LAWYER FACES CHARGE OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Author: Arthur C. Gorlick P-I Reporter
Dateline: PORT ANGELES
A Port Angeles attorney widely recognized for adopting children from Asia and Central America has been charged with sexually abusing a blind, 12-year- old Guatemalan girl living in his home.
The girl told investigators that she has been repeatedly molested by the attorney, his 30-year-old adoptive son and by at least one juvenile male in the home, court documents show.
The attorney, Theadore E. Ripley, 46 ((age)), has been charged with statutory rape in the second degree and is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow in Clallam County Superior Court in Port Angeles.
Ripley has denied the charge.
Police are also investigating statements made by several children in the Ripley household that they were sexually abused by other children in the home, court documents say.
Ripley's 30-year-old adoptive son, Kori, formerly a reserve Clallam County sheriff's deputy, was charged last month with an 1984 sexual assault on the Guatemalan girl. An unidentified male juvenile living in the home was found guilty last July of assaulting the girl.
Prosecuting Attorney David H. Bruneau said in the document that it is his ''belief that such disclosures by multiple victims and multiple abusers show a pattern of wanton sexual activity within that residence, and certainly tend to corroborate the continuing disclosures by the victim of the sexual abuse of her.''
Bruneau said the Guatemalan girl has been living with Ripley and his wife, Merrily, since infancy.
The case is also a problem for this small city's legal community.
Although Judge Grant S. Meiner of Clallam County Superior Court has agreed to hear the arraignment procedure of Theadore Ripley, both he and the county's only other Superior Court judge, Gary W. Velie, have disqualified themselves from hearing contested aspects of the case.
They said in signed statements that the action was taken in consideration of the Code of Judicial Ethics because Theadore Ripley is a practicing attorney in Clallam County.
The public defender's office is in the downtown Port Angeles building where Theadore Ripley has his law offices and was excused from defending Kori Ripley because it would be awkward to provide him with legal advice there, court documents indicate.
As a result, Chris Shea of Sequim was asked to represent Kori Ripley.
Denise Thomas, social work supervisor for the Department of Social and Health Services and its Child Protective Services office in Port Angeles, said the Guatemalan girl has been made a ward of the state and is living with a foster family.
However, she said three minor children remain in the home.
Merrily Ripley, who operates a Port Angeles adoption agency, has not been charged in the case and is not mentioned in any documents connected with the case.
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the author-minister, once recognized the Ripley family in a nationwide broadcast for adopting children from other countries and bringing them to America, according to newspaper reports.
A court document indicates that Ripley faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Theadore Ripley said that on the advice of his attorney, David Johnson, he cannot comment on the case.
Ripley referred all questions to Johnson.
''Ted will be pleading 'not guilty,' '' Johnson said. ''There is no question about that. Ted adamantly denies the charges.
''We're hoping for a speedy resolution of the case and we're confident that ultimately the truth will come out.''
Kori Ripley is scheduled to stand trial March 17.
Attorney Shea has entered a plea of not guilty on his client's behalf. Neither Shea nor Kori Ripley was available for comment yesterday.
Kori Ripley is free while awaiting trial.
Bruneau also said that the juvenile male who was earlier found guilty of abusing the Guatemalan girl was sentenced last July to 22 weeks in a juvenile institution and is now free.
The court document referred to statements from three other minor girls and a boy who have lived in the Ripley home and who indicated they were victims of sexual abuse by other children in the household.
One of the girls who indicated she was abused also is accused, but not charged, with molesting the Guatemalan girl, according to the documents.
That girl indicated that she experienced sexual abuse by two boys and a girl in the home.
The document says another minor girl indicated she was sexually abused by two boys. Still another minor girl said she was abused by four boys in the home. And a boy said he abused six girls in the home, the document says.
The Guatemalan girl told investigators that Theadore Ripley abused her during 1987 and as recently as January 1988, ''some time after the defendant had threatened her with a knife in order to insure her silence,'' according to court records.
According to the girl, court documents disclose, Theadore Ripley took her into a workshop separate from the home in January 1988.
There, according to the document, he closed the door and had the child sit on his lap and told her, ''I don't want to hurt you.'' He then had her perform various sex acts, according to the court documents.
The girl told investigators that the same acts were performed by Theadore Ripley ''approximately 10 to 15 times prior'' to the incident in January 1988.
Theadore Ripley, who is free on his personal recognizance and living in the family home, is barred by court order from attempting to visit with the girl.
Thomas said that a ''wide- ranging investigation is under way.''
''I don't think we have a clear picture yet,' she said. ''We're getting a clearer picture.''
She said also that other divisions of DSHS are investigating the license the department issued to the adoption agency that operates in the Ripley family home, Adoption Advocates International.
The office of Attorney General Ken Eikenberry also has been advised, she said.
''I have no knowledge of that and cannot comment on it,'' Johnson said of the DSHS investigations.
Bruneau said investigators are also attempting to discern if the girl in the case has been legally adopted by the Ripleys and to determine her immigration status in the United States.
Bruneau said the charges against Kori Ripley evolved from statements by the Guatemalan girl to investigators in the case in which the juvenile boy was eventually convicted.
Both she and other children in the home provided therapists with information that led to the charges, he said.
The family has gotten public notice for years for its sizeable household of natural, adoptive and foster children.
Newspaper accounts indicated that in February 1980 there were 18 children in the Ripley household.
In addition to the three children born to them, according to news stories in 1980, the Ripleys have adopted 16 children, provided foster care for another child and had two other children living temporarily in the home.