Editor’s note: This story contains graphic language that some readers may find offensive.
It took 18 years for the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office to identify and arrest Paul James Bieker for the rape and abduction of a teenage girl in McCleary, but it took a jury at Grays Harbor Superior Court just 90 minutes on Friday, June 3, to render a verdict.
Bieker was found guilty of rape in the first degree, as well as enhancement factors, including deliberate cruelty. The statute of limitations on kidnapping and other charges had already expired.
The rape happened on March 6, 2003, when a 17-year-old McCleary resident was abducted from the detached garage of her residence, restrained, and eventually forced into the back seat of her own vehicle. The victim was then driven to a secondary location, which remains unidentified, where she was raped before being driven back to a location near her residence.
The first two days of the trial, which started on Wednesday, June 1, before Judge David Mistachkin, included harrowing testimony from the victim and later her father, who was home when his daughter returned in her vehicle, with her feet still bound. He recalled freeing his daughter from the zip ties around her ankles, as well as the fear she expressed that her assailant would return to the residence to cause them harm.
These recollections were supported by a tape recording of the 911 call placed shortly after the victim’s return, which was played aloud in the courtroom on Thursday.
Because the crime occurred outside of McCleary city limits, the sheriff’s office responded to the call. According to testimony from sheriff’s office personnel, the incident was well-documented through several reports and the collection of evidence, including a rape kit performed at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia.
According to testimony by Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office Chief Civil Deputy and Chief of the Investigations Division Darrin Wallace, 37 samples of evidence were collected following the 2003 incident.
“Investigators collected evidence at the hospital and a DNA profile was eventually obtained for the suspect in the sexual assault. Although an exhaustive investigation was conducted, investigators were not been [sic] able to identify a suspect. The suspect’s DNA profile was entered into the nationwide criminal database and it was not linked to a known person in the database,” said the sheriff’s office in a statement on Friday.
The sheriff’s office has been actively investigating leads on the case since 2012, said Wallace, but didn’t achieve a breakthrough until 2020 when they applied for a Sexual Assualt Kit Initiatve grant from the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.
The grant allowed the sheriff’s office to submit the 2003 rape kit to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory Division, which provided a short list of potential suspects. It was from that list, as well as more circumstantial evidence, that a search warrant was issued to track Bieker’s vehicle in the hopes of obtaining discarded DNA.
On May 29, 2021, sheriff’s office personnel picked up a discarded Starbucks coffee cup at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma. The coffee cup belonged to Bieker, who moved to Tacoma in 2017.
According to Washington State Patrol Crime Lab Forensic Scientist Will Dean, 36 reference samples were tested against the rape kit. It wasn’t until Dean received DNA from the coffee cup, however, that he found a match.
A one in 35 quadrillion match to be exact.
Bieker was arrested on June 6, 2021, at the McCleary Post Office. Following his arrest, the sheriff’s office obtained a second DNA sample, which was then tested against the rape kit and also found to be a match. Bieker was free on bail prior to the trial date.
In a surprise turn of events, Bieker made a last-minute decision to testify on Friday. While Bieker claims that the sexual encounter between him and the teenage girl was consensual, he could not account for the presence of his sperm given his belief that he did not ejaculate during the incident.
Bieker, who was 32 years old at the time and married, claimed to have had a few brief interactions with the victim at the coffee stand where she was employed. He described her as “friendly” and “attractive,” and said he was lead to believe she was 20 years old. According to his testimony, the girl would “chat him up” when he came to the coffee stand, and eventually suggested they meet up after her shift. Bieker said he agreed due to a lack of physical intimacy in his marriage at the time.
“I’m not a player,” testified Bieker. “If someone gives me attention, I may respond. I want to be a good husband, that’s my bottom line.”
He testified that the zip ties used on the victim’s wrists and ankles were a consensual decision to help Bieker achieve an erection.
“I had never had an extramarital affair, I was in new territory, but I had urges,” he said on Friday. “…I was in love with my wife, I wasn’t in love with this woman — there’s a difference.”
According to Bieker, the victim was frustrated by his inability to achieve an erection, and he decided to leave out of humiliation. She then attempted to kick him when he went to release her feet from the zip ties, and he left her bound in self-defense.
Despite his testimony that this consensual liaison had occurred, Bieker denied recognizing the victim when presented with a 2003 picture of her by the sheriff’s office upon his arrest. He never mentioned the encounter either.
“I never knew she reported this. McCleary is a small town, everyone is in everybody’s business,” he said. “I had no idea, and I was completely shocked when Officer Wallace picked me up.”
Bieker’s testimony was not enough to sway the jury.
Faint claps erupted from the back of courtroom on Friday as the presiding juror read out the verdict for rape in the first degree. Family and friends had gathered to support the victim. Bieker remained calm, but embraced his wife over the divider as the court concluded its proceedings.
“It’s his decision to testify and it’s his constitutional right,” said Nichole Fisher, Senior Attorney at Puget Law Group and a member of Bieker’s defense team. “Ultimately it came down to credibility and whose side of the story they believe.”
According to Fisher, Bieker intends to appeal his verdict. His sentencing date has been set for Friday, July 8, before Judge Mistachkin. He has been placed into custody with no bail due to the nature of the crime.
“I’m glad justice was done, I’m just sorry it took 19 years,” said Grays Harbor County Chief Prosecutor Jason Walker.