Kevin Best cries while reading a letter to the court during his sentencing hearing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Kevin Best cries while reading a letter to the court during his sentencing hearing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Ex-firefighter sentenced for attempted child rape in Everett

Kevin Best, now 48, was given six years to life in prison. He was caught in a child-sex sting in 2016.

EVERETT — A former Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue firefighter has been sentenced to a minimum of six years and four months in prison for attempted child rape and attempted child molestation.

Kevin Best, 48, was handed an indeterminate sentence where he could spend up to life behind bars. He wept as he pleaded with Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Jennifer Langbehn to show leniency. He apologized to his family, friends and the judge for having had to hear about the “horrible” things he’d said.

“I pray, your honor, that you will show mercy and not let this case define who I am,” Best said in the courtroom, “and be able to take into account my 20-plus years of public service where I’ve saved lives — and risked my own life — for property, for the environment. It’s always been my nature to help others in need.”

Best, of Maple Valley, was one of six men caught by law enforcement through a sting in February 2016. When Best was arrested, he told detectives, “It was all fantasy,” according to charging papers.

Best had communicated with undercover detectives for three months prior to his arrest. He got on the radar of law enforcement when he responded to a post on Craigslist Casual Encounters:

“Mommy wants daddy to take care of her girls — real w4m

Help mommy take care of her family. Not into long emails or fakes. If you don’t send me a pic then don’t bother. Be sure to put your a/s/l and name in title along with daddy for you in title.”

The acronym “w4m” meant “woman looking for a man, and “a/s/l” was an abbreviation for the words “age, sex and location.”

That advertisement had been posted by an undercover Washington State Patrol detective. Best replied via email. The detective emailed back, pretending to be the mother of two daughters: ages 10 and 13. Best and the “mother” talked through emails, text messages and phone calls, the charges say.

Best told the detective he had three children under the age of 14. He said he wanted their families to “get together.” In a recorded phone call, he reportedly told the detective he started sexually abusing his daughters at a young age.

Another detective pretended to be one of the woman’s daughters. She talked on the phone with Best. Best told her he planned to have sexual contact with her and her sister. He also told her he was a firefighter and offered to give her a tour of his fire station someday, the charges say.

On Feb. 20, 2016, Best drove to an Everett home to meet the “mother” and her two children, according to charging papers.

As soon as he walked through the door, Best was arrested. Officers from the FBI, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol were at the sting.

The Maple Valley man was booked into the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of attempted child rape and attempted child molestation.

After the arrest, a woman contacted detectives. She lived with Best in 2014, she reported, and she told them the man had sexually abused her 4-year-old daughter.

It took six years for the case — slowed by lengthy defense motions and other court filings — to go to trial.

A jury found Best guilty in September of one count of first-degree attempted child rape and one count of second-degree attempted child molestation. Under state guidelines, the defendant faced a minimum sentence roughly within a range of 6 to 8½ years.

Deputy prosecutor Martha Saracino asked the judge to give the defendant a sentence at the high end of the range, arguing Best is a danger to his community, even though the victims in this case were fictitious.

“I don’t read law enforcement as the victim, Judge,” the deputy prosecutor said in court. “I think it’s the general public that’s the victim … This isn’t a case about what happened, but what would have happened if the defendant had his way.”

Defense attorney Braden Pence asked for an exceptional sentence below the standard range.

“There should be at some point some reflection by the government about what role it played in not catching a child molester who was out there offending, because there’s no evidence of that,” Pence said, “but instead in creating a child molester.”

The defendant’s mother told the judge she never saw the man lay a hand on children in the family.

Handing down the sentence, Judge Langbehn told the defendant: “I can only look at what you knew and what you thought the situation was, going into it.”

In addition to the prison time, she ordered Best to remain on probation for the rest of his life.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; edennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen

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