Serial rapist gets life in prison for Arlington trail attack

EVERETT — Robert Raethke was given a chance at life outside of prison after serving nearly three decades behind bars for raping teenage girls in the 1980s.

His freedom was short-lived.

A judge Wednesday imposed a life sentence for Raethke. A jury in February convicted the serial rapist of a 2014 sexually motivated assault that happened along a popular Arlington trail. Raethke groped a 19-year-old woman who was walking her dog.

It is his second strike under the state’s persistent sex offender law, earning him a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of release. Raethke is 61.

His lawyer says Raethke plans to appeal his conviction. She advised him not to say anything at Wednesday’s hearing.

“I do find you are a persistent offender,” Superior Court Judge George Appel said, adding that he had no choice but to send Raethke away for the rest of his life.

Before his release from prison in 2012 the state considered holding Raethke as a sexually violent predator, but he didn’t meet the criteria for civil commitment under the statute, according to court papers.

Yet, records from the state Department of Corrections show that Raethke’s control of his sexual deviancy was tenuous from his first days outside prison walls. He initially was housed in a Marysville group home for sex offenders. He was moved after young women working at an espresso stand nearby complained that he kept hanging around.

Once in an Arlington group home Raethke frequented stores and businesses and left women unwanted notes. The women were uneasy enough that they complained about his behavior and asked him to stay away.

Raethke was outfitted with a GPS monitoring bracelet in 2013. He had failed a polygraph when asked questions about viewing pornography, concealing fantasies about strangers and having unreported contact with minors, according to court papers. He passed a subsequent polygraph, but test results were inconclusive in March 2014 when he was asked whether he stalked, harassed or bothered anyone or viewed pornography.

Raethke’s whereabouts were tracked and he was required to provide a daily record of his activities to his community corrections officer. He failed to tell his community corrections officer about the April 30, 2014, assault in Arlington.

Jurors were told that a 19-year-old woman was walking her dog when she crossed paths with Raethke, who appeared to be lying in wait.

The woman testified that Raethke first asked for a hug, but then grabbed her, held her and tried to kiss her mouth and cheek. She screamed at him, and he jogged off down the trail.

The woman reported the incident to police. She and her mother later visited the county’s online sex offender registry. The teen immediately recognized Raethke from his photograph, and she called police again.

The tracking system showed that Raethke had been on the trail numerous times leading up to the attack. He also had been keeping a “walking journal,” detailing his daily routes.

Raethke found his previous victims on trails.

Between 1982 and 1984, he raped four teenage girls and attempted to rape a fifth. He pulled four of the victims off a wooded path near the Mountlake Terrace Recreation Pavilion. He found another victim in a wooded area in Lynnwood.

Raethke called himself the “gentleman rapist,” saying that he was nice to the victims because he sometimes walked them back to the trail from where he abducted them.

He often bound and gagged the girls, ages 14 and 15, and threatened to kill them if they screamed or tried to get away.

Three of those survivors testified at Raethke’s recent trial. Jurors were allowed to hear their testimony as evidence of Raethke’s intent on the Arlington trail.

The woman and her mom were in the courtroom Wednesday. So was one of the women who survived Raethke’s crimes in the 1980s. She let out a sigh of relief when the judge ordered Raethke imprisoned for life.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley.

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