SNOHOMISH — Twenty-one women have now accused a Snohomish chiropractor of sexual touching under the guise of medical treatment, the lead prosecutor on the case said Friday.
Prosecutors charged Dr. Kenneth Parker, 61, of Marysville, with eight counts of felony sexual misconduct by a health care provider in late May. Some charges were not filed because the incidents were over three years old, pre-dating the state statute of limitations for the crime of indecent liberties, deputy prosecutor Bob Langbehn said Friday.
Parker has been licensed to practice as a chiropractor since 2001. He was arrested in May to face six counts of indecent liberties. At the time, Snohomish police suspected that number would increase.
Among the 21 women who came forward were three former patients who reported Parker for inappropriately touching their breasts during medical exams in 2017 and 2018. The state Department of Health charged Parker with unprofessional conduct in 2019, but he did not face criminal charges at the time. The longtime doctor ultimately admitted to the health department’s charges, and he signed an order in January agreeing to a nine-month suspension to begin Feb. 25, 2021.
Yet he continued to see patients at the Chiropractic Health & Wellness Center at 127 Avenue C while the suspension was pending and after it went into effect, according to charging papers.
One woman, in her 30s, reported she saw Parker at least four times. He reportedly explained to her his license was suspended but that he was still willing to hold “free” appointments for friends and family, according to charges filed by Langbehn. The woman recounted that Parker would sweep all across her body with his hands, then reach down across her sternum and press on each breast. For most of the appointments, the patient’s boyfriend was in the room with her.
But during her last visit on April 19, 2021, the boyfriend wasn’t there, according to the charges. Parker seemed to be paying little attention as the patient explained where she felt pain, according to the woman’s report. Then during the exam, the chiropractor grasped her buttock and groped her breast, the charges say. He also reportedly reached down her pants to her thigh.
“At no point did the defendant tell the victim he would be touching any sensitive areas nor did he ask permission to do so,” according to the charges.
Eight women were identified by initials in charging papers. All of them accused him of pressing or groping their breasts in a way that did not seem to be part of the treatment. They ranged in age from their 30s to their mid-60s.
According to the charges:
• One woman in her late 50s reported she saw Parker about 14 times between September 2018 and January 2019. He reportedly told her that her rib cage was out of alignment. He told her to undress and get into a gown that was too small, and he mentioned the adjustments might be “better if there were no gown to deal with.”
• A woman in her 60s returned to Dr. Parker about 24 times in late 2019. Each time he had her get face down on a table, where he would perform a technique he claimed to have learned in Canada. He would grab her chest with both hands.
• A physician who also worked in alternative medicine reported she saw Dr. Parker twice in December 2019: He made contact with her breasts for a moment during the first exam, and then for one or two minutes two days later. The woman, in her 30s, told police it “felt more like he was intentionally fondling her breast tissue,” rather than adjusting her ribs. He then touched other intimate parts of her body. She reported she spoke with other chiropractors later, and they told her Parker’s technique was bogus.
• Another woman reported similar touching at an appointment in August 2020. She spoke with her daughter, who had been seeing a different chiropractor. She talked it over with her daughter, who said a different chiropractor she’d been seeing did not touch her in that way.
• A woman in her 30s told police Parker grabbed her breasts in September 2020 “but did not appear to be performing any sort of adjustment or displaying any technique that would help her back.”
• A woman in her 60s saw Parker two or three times a year. At one appointment in November 2020, he told her the tissue in her ribcage seemed to be twisted. He warned her that he may need to touch her breasts, and afterward his entire demeanor changed from calm to “sheepish,” according to the charges. She reported he touched her breasts a second time on Jan. 4, 2021.
• A woman in her 30s called the Snohomish Police Department in February 2021, to report she had been sexually touched by Parker. She told detectives it was her first visit to a chiropractor, and she believed she’d been referred to a different doctor at the same clinic. Only later when she went home and looked up the business did she discover she’d been treated by Dr. Parker.
At the start of the exam, the doctor made small talk for about 10 minutes, then explained he would need to do an assessment before the adjustment, according to the woman’s report. He made her get into several positions while he touched her breasts, without explaining the reason. He told her to take off her bra for X-rays, even when the woman asked if that was really necessary. Later he made her get on her belly, leaned into one of her shoulders and put his hands under her. He gripped each breast for about five seconds, according to the charges.
After the exam, Parker seemed to try to justify what he’d done, and he kept using the word “normal,” the woman reported. He told the patient he had been accused of inappropriate touching in the past, but “downplayed it as being part of the ‘Me Too’ movement,” according to the charges. He told the woman that an investigation was still open, and he was supposed to be leaving the clinic, but he needed to train someone on his techniques.
The woman called police days later. She revealed to police she had been sexually abused before, and she felt traumatized by the chiropractor’s actions.
“This trauma,” the charges say, “is part of the reason the victim waited to report to the police.”
Her report led Snohomish detective Steve Gort to arrest Parker at the clinic on April 29.
Several women called police after reading about the allegations in the news. One woman sued Parker in May for malpractice, saying she suffered from extreme emotional distress due to the medical battery. In May, the “memories she had tried to suppress were brought back to the surface when she learned that there were numerous other victims of this same chiropractor.”
According to the charges, that patient was one of several who signed a waiver acknowledging her breasts may be touched during the exam. Preprinted waivers were discovered in Parker’s office when police served a warrant on the clinic. Several women reported they only signed the waiver because they trusted the doctor. Clinic staff told police they were unaware that the waivers existed. Several women reported they delayed coming forward because they believed the waivers meant police could not help them.
Prosecutors alleged the touching was “well planned and executed as shown by the ‘waivers’ which (Parker) would have created prior to his assaults.”
A Superior Court judge set the doctor’s bail at $250,000.
“The defendant, even after losing his license for inappropriately touching several different patients, continued to assault women under the guise of treatment,” Langbehn wrote. “He has clearly shown that he is a danger to others without regard for following orders.”
Parker remained behind bars this month in the Snohomish County Jail.
If the case goes to trial, Langbehn said, he would aim to call women to the witness stand even if their report was over three years old and outside the statute of limitations, because their testimony would be relevant.
Court papers show Parker is being represented by the Meryhew Law Group, a Seattle law firm specializing in the defense of people accused of sex crimes. The firm did not return a Daily Herald reporter’s request for comment Friday.
Since the charges became public, a biography of Parker has been scrubbed from the website for the Chiropractic Health & Wellness Center. Until last month, the biography said Parker had dedicated countless hours studying “the art of manual manipulation of the soft tissues, making him truly unique in his field and a valued asset to his community.”
Detectives were still hearing from other potential victims this month. To make a report, contact the Snohomish Police Department at 360-568-0888, or call 911.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.