KENNEWICK — Matthew Lowe controlled a young teen’s life for years, treating her like a sex slave while he shared explicit pictures and videos of her.
At the same time, he was seen by many as a devout member of his church and a dedicated father and husband.
“Part of what makes him dangerous is that he never seems to be (dangerous),” one of his victims said in a letter read during Lowe’s recent sentencing.
The 47-year-old cybersecurity expert was expected to be sentenced to 17 1/2 years after pleading guilty to second-degree child rape, third-degree child rape, sexual exploitation of a minor and possession of child pornography.
But Benton County Superior Court Judge David Petersen decided the damage done by Lowe was too much for what would have been the lowest end of the state sentencing range.
He ordered Lowe to serve a minimum of 23 years and four months in prison.
After that is served, a Washington state sentencing board will decide if he should stay in prison longer — possibly up to a life term.
“I appreciate the process of (the plea) negotiation, but our community can’t be the same,” Peterson said.
Defense attorney Deric Orr acknowledged Lowe did horrible things but said he isn’t a two-dimensional monster.
“Mr. Lowe is aware of the devastation that his desires have wrought on the victim,” Orr said. “It’s going to be a lifetime of dealing with the repercussions of what he has done.”
Lowe apologized at the hearing, saying he can’t understate the sorrow for the damage he’s done.
“I have wronged God,” he said. “I have betrayed the trust of my family and the community.”
Years of sexual abuse
Lowe befriended a girl who was going through a difficult time.
He allegedly started raping and physically abusing her when she was a young teen and continued for several years until she went to police.
Lowe used his position as a trusted member of the community to gain the trust of her family, said Deputy Prosecutor Laurel Holland. Then he used that teen to recruit two more youths who also were abused.
“Mr. Lowe would talk about how he was doing things for her benefit,” Holland said. “He would tell her she had to go to bed at a certain time. He would require her to do things like school work. Things that uninvolved individuals would believe are positive things. The only positive thing that Mr. Lowe has done for the victim is to plead guilty.”
Documents said his abuse of her included submission, whips, ropes and other items, that sometimes left her bruised.
She told the judge that her therapists treat her ability to continue to function like a superpower because of the trauma she’s endured.
After she went to Richland police in 2018, investigators searched Lowe’s home and discovered nearly 45 terabytes of photographic evidence — about the equivalent to about 9 million photos or 22,500 hours of video.
It took police nearly a year to review all the evidence.
He allegedly shared one of the explicit videos with Russell L. Meyer, 48, who also allegedly abused the teen. He is scheduled to go to trial May 8.
Meyer already is registered as a Level 2 sex offender, according to public documents. He has a 2016 conviction for second-degree extortion involving sexual motivation, and a 2014 conviction for indecent exposure to a child under age 14.
Son’s murder charge
Matthew Lowe was previously married to Bethany Lowe of Richland, who was stabbed to death in her home in July 2022.
Matthew Lowe’s stepson, David, 29, is charged with killing her and stabbing her longtime partner, Andy Davis, after breaking into their house.
Court records show Matthew Lowe and Bethany Lowe divorced in 2007.
Legal proceedings against David Lowe have been on hold since an Eastern State Hospital psychologist found he wasn’t mentally healthy enough to stand trial.
The former firefighter told investigators he broke in to find out if his mother had killed his daughter. He was convinced of the girl’s death though she lives with her mother unharmed.