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Woman kidnapped, beaten in Oak Harbor

Four Oak Harbor men and a woman were charged Thursday with kidnapping a 23-year-old woman, tying her up in a Dock Street home, terrorizing and badly beating her, according to police reports.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said he was shocked by the allegations and vowed to deal severely with the guilty. “We’ve never seen anything like this before in Island County,” he said, pointing out that the motive for the crime appeared to be that the victim had cooperated with police.

“The repercussions of this case have the potential to ripple through our entire criminal justice system,” Banks said. “When criminals resort to violence to conceal their crimes, they are trying to intimidate all good and responsible citizens; they are trying to send a message that we should be afraid of reporting criminal activity. With this case I intend to send a louder message to all those who would act so savagely: You will be punished harshly, and you will be locked away from society for many, many years.”

Five suspects were charged in Island County Superior Court Thursday with first-degree assault, first-degree kidnapping and intimidating a witness. They are Stephen Valdez, 20, James Randall, 29, Ronald Noble, 34, Brian Palmer, 23, and 25-year-old Mindy Palmer. All the men are in custody at the Island County jail while Mindy Palmer was still at large as of Friday.

Valdez was also charged with felony harassment for threatening to kill the victim, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Sgt. Jerry Baker with the Oak Harbor Police said the five suspects were upset at the 23-year-old woman because they thought she had given police details about a burglary. They lured her to the house with the promise of methamphetamines on Thanksgiving Day, but then tied her up in a back bedroom, according to Baker.

Banks said the suspects “terrorized and tortured” the woman. He said they attempted to glue her hands together, but then gave up and tied her. They shaved half of her scalp and threw knives at her feet. According to Banks, Valdez punched the woman several times in the face, seriously injuring her.

The suspects eventually allowed the woman to leave after threatening to kill her if she went to the police, according to Baker. She was so scared that she didn’t go to the hospital for three days. By then, her facial injuries had gotten so bad that “the side of her face was severely malformed,” Baker said.

The woman’s skull was fractured around her left eye and she’s had vision problems, but the swelling was so excessive that doctors weren’t immediately able to determine if she suffered permanent eye damage.

“The swelling to the left side of her face was so severe that I did not recognize her,” Baker wrote in his report about seeing the victim three days after the assault. “The swelling extended from the forehead hairline to her lower jaw and made the left side of her face nearly twice its normal size. Her left eye was completely swollen shut and protruding beyond the eye socket. She still had dried blood appearing in her left nostril and her right eye was also blackened.”

Baker said four of the suspects were arrested Tuesday. The officers served a search warrant at the SE Dock Street house early in the morning and arrested two of the suspects. Baker said the renter of the Dock Street home was not at home when the assault and kidnapping took place.

Deputies with the Island County Sheriff’s Office arrested the other two suspects were at a Fakkema Road home.

As a result of the warrants and search, police arrested five other people on drug-related charges. According to Baker, investigators found meth and drug-related paraphernalia at the Dock Street house. “It’s a party house where people go to do drugs,” he said.

While those arrested on drug-related charges apparently weren’t involved in the kidnapping, Banks said crystal meth may be at the heart of the crime. “It seems that this case is fueled, at least in part, by meth,” he said.

“We have seen a sharp rise in methamphetamine production and use on the island,” he added. “You can count the injuries of the victim in this case as part of the devastation wreaked by this insidious drug.”

Baker said police are very familiar with the suspects, who he describes as dangerous, meth-using individuals. “We’ve been dealing with this group again and again and again,” he said. “I would like to get them out of society for awhile.”

If convicted of the crimes as charged, the kidnapping and assault suspects could face serious time behind bars. Depending on their criminal history and assuming convictions on all counts, Valdez and Brian Palmer are facing up to 32 years in prison; Mindy Palmer could get up to 29 years; Noble could get 23 years; and Randall faces up to 21.9 years.

Friday, Baker said the victim had to undergo surgery to repair orbital bones fractures and drain a “massive infection.” He said doctors are hopeful that she’ll regain her eyesight.

“She’ll have a nasty little scar on her face,” he said, “but she should be OK.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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