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Jan. 29, 2023

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$275,000 payout follows Culp’s alleged mishandling of case

Suit accused police of botching child sex-abuse probe

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SEATTLE — A lawsuit accusing Loren Culp and other police of botching a child sexual-abuse investigation and trying to intimidate the victim has been settled, with Ferry County and the city of Republic agreeing to pay the victim $275,000.

The lawsuit, filed in 2017, alleged that Culp, then a Republic police officer, along with Ferry County sheriff’s Deputy Talon Venturo, failed to properly investigate allegations in 2013 by a 17-year-old girl who reported she’d been sexually molested by her stepfather since she was 5.

After the dropped probe in Ferry County, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office stepped in at the urging of the girl’s grandparents and swiftly obtained evidence to arrest Roy A. Moore Jr. on child rape, child molestation and incest charges.

Moore pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree child molestation in March 2015. He was sentenced to a minimum of 67 months in prison but was released in late 2019.

Culp, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor in 2020 and for Congress this year, was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with Venturo, Ferry County and the small town of Republic in northeast Washington.

In an interview this week, the lawsuit plaintiff, now 26, said she feels vindicated by the settlement, recalling she received numerous threats after news of her lawsuit broke during Culp’s gubernatorial campaign. (The Seattle Times typically does not name victims of sexual abuse.)

“It’s nice to be finally told that I wasn’t lying and that they were in the wrong,” she said, adding that she hopes the case will lead Ferry County and Republic to better handle cases involving rape and child molestation. “I believe they will make some changes. I didn’t want this to happen to another girl.”

In a statement this week, Culp contended he’d been vindicated, citing a court order that formally dismissed him as an individual defendant in the lawsuit in mid-November. He criticized the media for reporting on the case and political rivals for running ads highlighting it during his congressional run this year. Culp did not make it out of the August primary in the 4th Congressional District.

“After years of my name being dragged through the mud, I’m happy to have this cleared up and signed by a judge. Now, where do I go to get my reputation back?” Culp said in the statement, which did not mention the monetary settlement.

In a subsequent email Thursday, Culp said the case “was never intended to go to trial which I pushed for” and said it was delayed for years to extract a settlement “which apparently will do no more than pay the attorneys fees as usual.”

Bill Gilbert, the attorney for the plaintiff, said the $275,000 settlement was reached after mediation in the long-running case, and disputed Culp’s characterization.

“Mr. Culp was not vindicated whatsoever by this dismissal,” Gilbert said in an email. “The case settled. Which means the defendants paid … a sizeable sum of money in exchange for a release and dismissal.”

Michael McFarland, an attorney for Ferry County and Venturo, said in an email that Venturo “was dismissed from the lawsuit and then Ferry County settled with [the plaintiff].”

The Nov. 23 settlement agreement states that it was reached as a compromise “of a disputed claim” and did not constitute “an admission of liability on the part of the Defendants.”

Culp has repeatedly downplayed his role in the sexual-abuse investigation and previously said that Moore’s guilty plea doesn’t mean he’d actually committed a crime.

“I conducted multiple child abuse investigations in my career and ALL of them were handled professionally from start to finish but no one wants to look into those including YOU which is very telling. I received the key to the city for the excellent work I did,” Culp wrote in his email.

According to the lawsuit, filed initially in Lincoln County and then moved to Ferry County Superior Court, the then-17-year-old girl reported in November 2013 that Moore had been sexually molesting her for 12 years. She initially reported the abuse to Matthew Beard, a 23-year-old reserve Republic police officer, whom she had been dating.

Beard, who was also named in the lawsuit, did not immediately report the allegation to his law enforcement superiors or state child-welfare authorities, as required by law, the lawsuit stated. Instead, he spoke to the girl’s mother.

The case was chiefly investigated by Venturo, who obtained a search warrant. He provided the victim’s mother with a digital recorder to conceal in an effort to obtain a confession from Moore — an effort that did not succeed.

Meanwhile, the teen was sent to stay the night at Beard’s home, who, according to the lawsuit, “took advantage of the distraught and vulnerable 17-year-old, and ultimately engaged in sexual relations with her.” In a court filing, an attorney representing Beard acknowledged the girl went to his home, but denied they had sex.

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