SNOHOMISH — Police believe the man who groped an 11-year-old girl at a Snohomish grocery store last month is the same man who fire-bombed abortion clinics in Everett and Bellingham in the 1980s.
At least eight people identified Curtis Anton Beseda as the man seen in video surveillance released to the media on Tuesday. Prosecutors on Friday charged Beseda, 58, with first-degree child molestation in connection with the groping.
A judge issued a $250,000 arrest warrant for Beseda. Police say he hasn’t returned to his Snohomish apartment in a few days. His vehicle also is missing.
Beseda became a convicted martyr for the anti-abortion movement in the 1980s after he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for arsons at abortion clinics.
The unemployed roofer frequently picketed outside the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Everett. He set three nighttime fires there in 1983 and 1984, eventually forcing the women’s health clinic to close. He also was convicted of an arson at a Bellingham clinic.
Beseda was revered by other anti-abortionists and was honored at a national banquet in 1995. He sent a letter from prison, which was read at the banquet. The letter urged support for Shelly Shannon, an Oregon woman who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for shooting an abortion doctor in Kansas in 1993, as well as setting fire to six abortion clinics.
Beseda was released from prison in 1996. He was sent back the next year for a parole violation and didn’t regain freedom until 2003, according to court records.
Since his release Beseda has been convicted of three misdemeanor charges, including criminal trespass and fourth-degree assault.
Detectives were told that Beseda is a frequent customer at Fred Meyer in Snohomish.
Prosecutors allege that Beseda approached an 11-year-old girl there Jan. 27 as she was waiting for her father inside the store. Beseda reportedly pressed himself against the girl’s back and whispered in her ear. He offered to pay for the drink the girl was holding and sneak it to her outside, court papers said. Beseda allegedly rubbed his hands on the girl’s backside.
The touching made the girl “feel like the male was going to hurt her or take her from the store if she left with him,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul wrote in charging papers filed Friday.
The girl reported the incident to her father who flagged down a police officer in the parking lot.
Detectives reviewed video footage obtained from the store’s security cameras, corroborating the girl’s version of events.
On the video, the suspect is seen leaving the girl as a Starbucks employee approaches them. The video allegedly shows him touching or adjusting his genital area as he walks away, Paul wrote.
Sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday released video footage to media in an effort to identify the suspect. The next day several tips were called in, naming Beseda as the person seen in the video, court papers said.
Two of the callers were former classmates from high school and college. One caller reported that Beseda frequents an Everett restaurant, where he makes the female employees uncomfortable. Others reported that Beseda has compulsive mannerisms, including entering and exiting businesses several times before finally coming in or leaving. He frequently counts steps and avoids stepping on cracks.
The video from Fred Meyer allegedly shows Beseda walking in and out of the store before finally leaving.
Police report that Beseda was involuntarily held for a mental health evaluation in 2009. No details about that evaluation were provided in the charging papers.
Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call 911 or the sheriff’s tip line at 425-388-3845.
Reporter Scott North contributed to this story.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.