Principal of Christian school in Arlington charged with child rape

ARLINGTON — The principal at a private Christian school in Arlington was jailed Wednesday after being charged with child rape.

Mark Evan Brown, 37, is accused of encouraging a 14-year-old girl to run away from home and engaging in sexual contact with the student at the school in June, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Mark Roe said in court papers.

Brown has been principal at Highland Christian School in Arlington for three years. Among other things, he’s accused of preparing a hiding place for the girl at the school, complete with a television and hide-a-bed.

Brown is charged with third-degree child rape. Brown pleaded not guilty in a court hearing Wednesday afternoon. Superior Court Judge Eric Lucas ordered him held on $100,000 bail. He also ordered Brown not to have any contact with the girl or any minor children unless their parents are aware of the charge.

Brown’s family was in the courtroom for the hearing. They watched as he was led away in handcuffs.

Kristin Sande, a mother of three students at Highland Christian and a secretary of the school’s board, read a brief statement:

“The board and staff of Highland Christian School stand behind our principal Mark Brown. Mr. Brown is now on administrative leave while this investigation continues. We will continue to support him and his wife and his son through this ordeal he is going through. We continue to plan for the upcoming school year.”

The school, originally named Master’s Touch Christian School, has 238 students, kindergarten through grade 12.

Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives began to investigate Brown in June after the girl’s parents reported she had run away from home. Investigators discovered nearly 700 phone calls and text messages between the girl and Brown, according to a search warrant filed Wednesday afternoon.

Brown allegedly sent the girl text messages encouraging her to leave home and promising her a place to stay if she did, Roe said. In the text messages Brown allegedly told the girl, “We just have to keep moving u around,” and “Calm down yur almost free,” and “It will be ok. If something happens I’ll be there early on the morning. Either way lets get u out.”

Brown arranged for someone to pick up the girl and bring her to school, Roe wrote.

The school principal allegedly set up a bed and TV for the girl in a room on the third floor of the school, court documents said. It’s there where the girl says Brown gave her Bacardi rum and put his hands down her pants, Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Rebecca Lewis wrote in the search warrant. The girl told investigators he also kissed her.

Detectives tracked down the girl by tracing her cell phone four days after her parents reported her missing.

She initially denied sexual contact, but on Monday she allegedly told her mother that Brown had touched her sexually while she was hiding out at the school, according to court papers.

Brown was arrested July 9 for investigation of harboring a runaway. He was released on bail, and subject to a no-contact order with the girl. Brown reportedly told detectives he did not report her whereabouts because she was suicidal and threatened to hurt herself if police became involved.

Detectives said they found no text messages indicating the girl was suicidal or that Brown was trying to talk her out of running away or hurting herself, according to the search warrant.

Since his arrest earlier this month, Brown allegedly has called the girl, despite the no-contact order, and told her not to talk about the alleged sexual contact between them, Roe wrote.

That’s why prosecutors sought Brown’s immediate arraignment on Wednesday’s charge.

Detectives searched the school Tuesday and seized a couch cushion, hair, food wrappers and a pre-paid phone card. They also seized handwritten and typed notes from Brown’s office.

Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or hefley@heraldnet.com.

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