Vancouver attorney accused of abusing girl in Sunday school

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: November 23, 2011, 6:45 PM

 

A Vancouver divorce attorney has been arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing a 9-year-old girl in his Sunday school class.

Ryan D. Whitaker, 58, made his first appearance Wednesday morning in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of two counts of first-degree child molestation and two counts of first-degree rape of a child.

In the courtroom, Whitaker claimed he did not know his accuser.

Judge Rich Melnick set bail at $20,000 and appointed attorney Steven Rucker to represent Whitaker because Whitaker said he cannot afford his own attorney.

He was in the Clark County Jail on Wednesday afternoon.

Whitaker was arrested by Clark County sheriff’s deputies just before 1 p.m. Tuesday at his downtown Vancouver law firm. Court documents reveal the girl said that Whitaker had sexually abused her on several occasions during services at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 9700 block of Northeast 50th Avenue.

The girl said the alleged abuse occurred between February and September of this year. The alleged victim alerted a bishop and her parents, according to a probable cause affidavit filed with the court.

A witness told sheriff’s investigators that he noticed Whitaker paid special attention to the girl. Whitaker declined to make a statement, according to the affidavit.

According to state bar records, Whitaker has been a lawyer since 1992 and has handled civil litigation, criminal, probate, family law and personal injury cases. Whitaker’s law firm website lists him as specializing in family law.

A call to his law firm Wednesday went unanswered.

Whitaker and his wife, Diane, have lived in Clark County for 12 years, according to court documents. They have no children in the home.

In June, The Columbian ran a feature article on Whitaker detailing his penchant for running barefoot.

He will be arraigned Dec. 7. Melnick said a visiting judge from outside Clark County might be assigned the case.