By Scott North and Jackson Holtz Herald Writers
EVERETT — Police found evidence that made them skeptical as soon as they began investigating an Everett border-watch activist’s claim that she’d been beaten and raped by strangers on Dec. 29, documents show.
Summoned by a halting 911 call, officers found Shawna Forde curled up on the kitchen floor of her ex-husband’s north Everett home. She was partially nude. The blue sweatpants she’d been wearing were wadded up and tossed atop the number 13, which somebody had scrawled on the floor with felt-tipped marker, according to police reports.
Officers immediately noted details that didn’t fit Forde’s claim of a violent attack.
Neighbors living downstairs in the duplex hadn’t heard a struggle.
The rest of the home was neat and orderly.
Forde’s purse sat undisturbed on a table near the door, her wallet, cell phone and car keys inside.
When they tried to question Forde, 41, she appeared so groggy that one officer wrote that she may have been on drugs. Her eyelids fluttered as she seemed to slip in and out of consciousness.
But as she was wheeled out the door on a stretcher, Forde told crews to stop so she could grab her purse.
“I thought that it would require that she be fairly alert to grab hold of the purse as she passed quickly through the entry way,” officer Brandon Gill wrote.
Another officer noticed the superficial cuts on Forde’s forearms and thighs — wounds she would later tell detectives came from the knife used by her attackers.
The shallow cuts were consistent with “hesitation wounds,” often seen when people deliberately hurt themselves, the officer wrote. Moreover, they already were scabbed over, and appeared to be at least a day old, according to police reports.
The Herald gained access to the police reports under state public records laws.
Although reporters were allowed to take notes, Everett police said court rulings prevented them from providing copies of the documents because the case was closed Feb. 20 without charges being filed.
While the reports make it clear that police found reason to be skeptical of Forde’s rape claim, there was insufficient evidence to arrest her for a crime, Everett police Sgt. Robert Goetz said Monday.
“Skepticism doesn’t always lead to probable cause,” Goetz said.
Forde now is locked up in Tucson, Ariz. The self-described leader of the Minuteman American Defense border-watch group is awaiting trial on charges of first-degree murder and other crimes linked to the May 30 shootings of an Arivaca, Ariz., family.
Nine-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul, 29, were killed by intruders dressed in camouflage uniforms and posing as law enforcement. Arizona police believe Raul Flores was targeted because he was connected to drug trafficking. The girl’s mother also was shot but survived.
Forde’s rape report was part of a flurry of violence in Everett connected to her.
Detectives were trying to question Forde to see whether she knew more about who shot and nearly killed her husband in a Dec. 22 ambush attack. The couple were divorcing, and she was unemployed and debt-ridden.
Within hours of reporting the rape to police, Forde called The Herald to ask if a story was planned on her attack. The newspaper was asked by detectives to wait before writing a story, giving them time to sort out what was going on.
When Forde was told that a story would not be coming immediately, she decided to publish on her group’s Web site intimate details about her rape report, including photographs of what she said were her injuries and part of a medical report.
Forde did this before giving police a formal interview about the attack, something rape victims are normally asked to do. The detectives assigned to investigate wrote that she didn’t return phone calls and failed to keep appointments.
She didn’t meet with a police artist to help with a sketch until Jan. 7. Her interview with detectives didn’t occur until Jan. 13.
By then Forde was the focus of criticism by border activists and others for publicly claiming on her Web page that the shooting and the rape were linked to Mexican drug cartels.
Privately, she told police both attacks probably were the work of street thugs who knew her convict son.
In a tape-recorded interview with detectives, Forde said that while she knew that the MS-13 gang is active in Everett, she didn’t know what to make of the number 13 scrawled on the kitchen floor.
“I think that somebody did that just to be a jerk,” she said. “And just maybe to scare me or to make me think it was something else, or, I don’t really make a lot of it to be honest.”
The detective pointed out that Forde had publicized her speculation about gang involvement. That, along with posting semi-nude photos showing her injuries, was a mistake, she said.
She told them that she took those steps at the urging of others in the Minutemen movement because the attacks on her ex-husband and her were “too much of a coincidence” to ignore.
Forde also told detectives that she didn’t think MS-13 was responsible. Had they been, she likely wouldn’t have survived, she said.
Two days after speaking with police, Forde turned up in an Everett alley with apparent gunshot wounds to her right arm.
No one has been arrested in the shooting of Forde’s ex-husband. Everett police continue to investigate.
Last week, they reactivated their investigation into the Jan. 15 alleyway shooting after new witnesses surfaced. Those witnesses told The Herald they received separate phone calls — at different times — in which Forde claimed she was being hunted by whoever shot her in the alley.
Records show the detective’s rape investigation was closed for lack of evidence; he stopped on Jan. 23. One of the detective’s last entries noted that Forde had attempted to qualify for state aid after the attack, but was denied after officials reviewed her medical records.
Scott North: 425-339-3431, firstname.lastname@example.org.