Former Oak Harbor man faces new child molesting charges

A former Navy man who was the defendant in a long and complicated child sexual abuse case from a decade ago is facing a new set of charges.

Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill issued a $300,000 arrest warrant Sept. 26 for Bryon C. Koeller, a former Oak Harbor man now living in Richland, Wash.

Prosecutors recently charged Koeller, 44, with four counts of child molestation in the first degree, two counts of child molestation in the second degree, two counts of child molestation in the third degree, one count of indecent liberties and one count of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.

A female relative of Koeller’s came forward to Navy authorities last month and reported that Koeller molested her multiple times between approximately 1998 and 2007.

Koeller was charged with one count of rape of a child in the first degree in Island County Superior Court in 2007. He was accused of raping a 4-year-old boy in the care of Koeller’s wife as part of an informal daycare arrangement.

The first trial ended in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked.

The prosecutor tried him again and the jury found him guilty. His daughter testified at the trial that Koeller had also sexually assaulted her.

Churchill handed him an indeterminate sentence of 123 months to life in prison.

Koeller appealed to the state Court of Appeals and won. The appellate court reversed his conviction because the judge allowed the alleged victim to testify via closed-circuit TV so that he wouldn’t be traumatized by facing Koeller. The Court of Appeals ruled that the prosecution didn’t present strong enough evidence that “the victim would suffer serious emotional distress if required to testify in Koeller’s presence.”

Koeller was released after serving about three years in prison.

In order to save the victim from testifying in a third trial, the prosecutor and defense worked out a plea bargain under which Koeller pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor count of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. Koeller had to register as a sex offender, which was a priority for the prosecution.

Koeller and his wife filed a lawsuit against his former defense attorneys, claiming they failed to fully investigate his defense. The case was dismissed in 2013 after no action was taken in a year.

The new case was investigated by a special agent from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The girl reported to the agent that Koeller molested her about once a month when she was younger than 11 years old and every few months as she got older.

She said Koeller told her not to tell anyone else about the molestation and threatened to rape her, the report states.

The girl was able to describe many specific incidents. In one alleged instance, the girl refused Koeller’s demand that she undress. He wrestled her to the ground, duct taped her wrists, knees and ankles together and raped the dog — or at least attempted to — in front of her; he then sexually assaulted her, according to the NCIS report.

The new charges against Koeller include special allegations of aggravating circumstances, which could allow a judge to sentence him above the standard sentencing range.

Koeller’s current wife formerly worked for Child Protective Services, the report states.

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