Pastor sentenced for rape of a child

A former pastor at an Oak Harbor church was sentenced to more than three years in prison for child rape Thursday.

Thomas Stoneham, 55, had been facing a much more lenient sentence but then investigators discovered he provided the 15-year-old victim with a secret cell phone and coached her on her testimony to the police; he also told her he wanted to run away with her after she turned 16 years old, according to Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme.

Stoneham pleaded guilty in Island County Superior Court in November to two counts of child rape in the third degree and one count of tampering with a witness, which was charged as a domestic-violence crime.

In court Thursday, Stoneham’s defense attorney, his wife and even Judge Alan Hancock described Stoneham as a man who had led an exemplary life prior to the crime. Stoneham retired from the Navy after a 24-year career, became a pastor and served the community in many ways.

“It’s deeply disturbing to learn of these events,” Hancock said, adding that the revelation about what Stoneham had done must have been a “great shock” to his family.

Stoneham apologized to the victim, his family, his “church family” and others. He asked for forgiveness.

“From my heart I’m sorry, deeply sorry, for what I’ve done,” he said.

Ohme, on the other hand, cast doubts on Stoneham’s contrition. Under the plea bargain, he said, the prosecution agreed to not add “an aggravator” to the charges for Stoneham’s “egregious lack of remorse.” An aggravating circumstance could increase the sentence.

He explained that Stoneham and his wife had taken the girl into their home to get her out of a troubling environment, but she ended up “out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

“The victim should have been safe there but was not,” he said.

Stoneham’s wife discovered the abuse after becoming suspicious and setting up cameras in the home, capturing inappropriate behavior, Ohme said. Stoneham admitted to police that he had sexually abused the girl when she was 14 and 15 years old.

Ohme said Stoneham was a good candidate for a Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative, which reduces or eliminates incarceration for certain first-time sex offenders who agrees to monitored treatment.

But then the girl’s guardian discovered a cell phone Stoneham had provided her. In texts, Stoneham told the victim what to tell the police to make sure their stories match, Ohme said. He also texted her that he loved her, had saved $10,000 and was going to run away with her.

Ohme said the texts also suggested that the sexual contact between Stoneham and the girl was more serious than they had reported.

In the end, Hancock said Stoneham deserved a top-of-the-range sentence of three years and five months in prison, as was recommended by the prosecution and defense under the plea bargain.

Photo by Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
                                Thomas Stoneham appears in court Thursday with attorney Garrett Felliti.

Photo by Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times Thomas Stoneham appears in court Thursday with attorney Garrett Felliti.

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