Jeffrey Allen Cook is arraigned via video at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Jeffrey Allen Cook is arraigned via video at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Sex offender arrested in sexual assault of girl in Edmonds

He denied touching the 9-year-old in a store. Police say he matches a suspect captured on video.

EDMONDS — Tips led Edmonds police to arrest a sex offender who is accused of molesting a girl at a grocery store and masturbating near another girl in a different store an hour later.

The first girl, 9, reported a stranger with wavy gray hair touched her sexually around 4 p.m. Sept. 19 in the crowded seafood department of 99 Ranch Market in Edmonds. She ran with her sister through the store to find their mother, according to police reports filed in court Thursday. Officers could not find the man that day.

Footage from security cameras matched the girls’ account. A man had blocked the girls’ path, touched one of them between the legs, and darted out of the market without buying anything. He wore a bright blue shirt, dark shorts and beige slip-on shoes.

Edmonds police released still images from the video, asking for the public’s help to identify the man, in his 50s or 60s, possibly with a graying goatee.

They received more than 80 tips.

One anonymous tip alerted police to a man matching the description who tried to do the same thing to another girl an hour later at H-Mart, a large Asian grocery about 4½ miles away. Police retrieved much clearer security footage of a man in the same clothes. He appeared to be masturbating under his shorts.

Two of the public tips named a registered sex offender, Jeffrey Allen Cook, 50. He was convicted of child molestation in 1998 and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes in 2017, according to police reports. Edmonds detective Stacie Trykar looked at his mug shot. It was not obvious to her at the time that he would become the suspect, she wrote in a report.

Police continued to cross names off their list.

Court records show Cook has a Georgia driver’s license. His last known address was in North Bend.

Edmonds officers went to the trailer off North Bend Way and started watching the home through binoculars. They saw Cook. His hair had grown much longer since his mugshot. He looked like the suspect. Police confronted him. He reportedly claimed he’d never been to Edmonds and that he’d been out of state for the past week.

“When I first placed eyes on Cook today my first thought was this guy looks strikingly similar to the suspect in our surveillance videos,” detective Trykar wrote in her report.

She noted the length, cut, color and slicked-back style of his hair; the shape of his nose; his posture and “the way he carried himself when he walked;” his height and weight; his facial hair; his “elongated earlobes;” and his slip-on shoes.

Cook reportedly told the detective he’d been working on a house all day in North Bend on Sept. 15. Police called his boss, but he couldn’t vouch for Cook being there that day, court papers say.

Cook claimed he had medical problems: strokes, migraine headaches and seizures that could cause memory lapses and confusion. Over the course of the interview, Cook eventually said that if he was in 99 Ranch, and if he touched the girl, he didn’t do it intentionally, according to Trykar’s report.

“He then inferred it could have been possible that it was him in the store, but due to his memory issues caused by medical conditions, he had no memory of it,” the detective wrote.

Cook was booked into jail on suspicion of first-degree child molestation. Everett District Court Judge Tam Bui on Thursday set bail at $500,000.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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