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Alleged Oak Harbor child molester was always close to kids
Detectives investigating a former church youth ministry leader accused of child molestation have found that he’s been in close contact with children through a number of entities in Oak Harbor over the years.
Ronald Asplund, a 57-year-old Oak Harbor resident, was accused of molesting and raping two teenage boys. He met one of the boys through Oak Harbor Lutheran Church, where he had been the middle school ministry coordinator until a couple of months ago.
But Asplund’s activities with children went beyond the church. He volunteered as a mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County. He worked with children through the Navy’s former SAFE program, which offered before and after-school daycare at Oak Harbor elementary schools.
In addition, Asplund worked as a substitute teacher at Oak Harbor schools for a limited time in 2000 and 2005. His wife was the special education teacher.
Detective Sgt. Teri Gardner with the Oak Harbor Police Department said detectives have received calls about Asplund from Chelan, King and Whatcom counties, where Asplund has “connections.” She said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is assisting with the investigation into Asplund’s involvement with the Navy program.
Gardner confirmed that Asplund had volunteered for several years with Big Brothers Big Sisters, a mentoring program that matches children with adult mentors.
“We are attempting to locate the people he was matched with, Gardner said.
Peggy Dyer, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County, said she’s aware of the investigation of the former volunteer and the organization is working proactively with law enforcement.
“We are alarmed and deeply saddened by reports of any child being harmed or exploited in any way and are taking this report very seriously,” she said in a written statement.
According to the statement, Big Brothers Big Sisters is a recognized leader in child safety and has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind.
“We remain committed to improving children’s odds for succeeding in school and breaking negative cycles and believe that safety and security are the foundation of the service we provide. The integrity of our program is extremely important and to achieve the highest quality standards possible, we work to constantly review and strengthen our screening and background check systems as new best practices in the industry emerge,” according to the statement.
Oak Harbor School Superintendent Rick Schulte said Asplund worked as a substitute teacher for five days in 2000 and six days in 2005.
Asplund also worked for the Navy’s SAFE program, which ended after the Navy built child care centers. Under the SAFE program, the Navy rented elementary school gyms for before and after-school programs for students.
Prosecutors charged Asplund Monday with three counts of rape of a child in the second degree and three counts of child molestation in the second degree. If convicted of all the charges against him, Asplund could face an indeterminate sentence of up to life in prison, with a minimum sentence that would be as high as 23 years.