Ferndale Man Arrested for Allegedly Sexually Assaulting Multiple Elderly Patients

Arrest Made File Photo

Anacortes, WA – The Anacortes Police Department has completed a several months long investigation into allegations that a 55-year old Ferndale man working as a nursing assistant, reportedly  sexually assaulted up to  thirteen residents at the San Juan Rehabilitation Center over the course of several years.

According to a probable cause affidavit of arrest, obtained by SkagitBreaking.com through a public disclosure request, 55-year old Willie Orlando Lawton III of Ferndale is accused of various sex crimes against frail, elderly or  vulnerable adults.  The charges include Rape 2nd of an incapable victim, indecent liberties, and two counts of Assault 4th degree with sexual motivation.

Anacortes detectives have identified thirteen potential victims, ranging from 67-years of age to 99-years of age.   The victims have all reported various degrees of inappropriate physical contact with Lawton to detectives and social workers.

In January of 2018, a 71-year old female resident from San Juan Rebab Center reported to Adult Protective Services that she did not want to return to San Juan Rehab after  a male nurse had walked up to her in the hallway  in the evening hours and kissed her on the lips and walked away.  Anacortes Police opened a case and began an investigation into the accusation.

In February of 2018, a 99-year old male resident of San Juan Rehab Center reported that Lawton had woke him up in the middle of the night to apply ointment on his genitals but “takes a while applying it in this area.”  During the investigation into the allegations against the 99-year old resident, a 92-year old male resident reported that Lawton had inappropriately touched him.  The 92-year old stated that the nurses kept asking him how he was getting along with his penis and he kept telling them that he had no problems with his penis.  The 92-year old then told detectives that Lawton insisted on applying an ointment to his penis and would give him midnight showers.  When asked for further clarification the 92-year old said Lawton was overly enthusiastic about applying ointment in the area between his groin and leg. He said other nurses would apply the ointment with one or two swipes but Lawton would do it about twenty times.   He also stated Lawton asked for hugs and a kiss as he helped the 92-year old into bed on other occasions.

During the investigation, a Licensor for the State of Washington wrote in court documents that two employees of San Juan Rehab had administered a questionnaire to all of the residents. The results were that three additional patients reported that they had been inappropriately touched. A 62-year old male reported that he had been inappropriately touched, a 72-year old male reported he had been kissed and a 77-year old female reported that the male  care giver had put his hands in her pants last year.

Additional investigations by Anacortes Police Detectives discovered another complaint against Lawton. According to court documents, in October of 2017,  a 98-year old resident of San Juan Rehab Center had stated to a therapist that Lawton comes to her house and visits and referred to him as her lover and friend. When Interviewed the woman changed her story and said nothing inappropriate ever happened between the two but she wanted it to.

In March of 2018, detectives were advised by an employee of San Juan Rehab that an 84-year old resident of San Juan Rehab had told the employee that Lawton had been fired because the  84-year old woman said the two were having sex and had been for several years.  In a separate incident, another employee of San Juan Rehab reported to detectives that Lawton had been involved in another alleged sexual allegation when he worked at another facility. It was determined that an 84-year old resident of that facility  had previously reported Lawton for inappropriate sexual behavior. An employee of San Juan Rehab also reported to Detectives that two additional sexual statements had been previously reported including one from  a deceased 80-year old former resident and a 76-year old resident.   A former 83-year old resident reported that when she was at San Juan Rehab Center, Lawton had ben coming into her room and had kissed her and had been talking sweetly to her.  A son of a 76-year old resident reported to San Juan Rehab Center Staff that Lawton had allegedly been coming into his 76-year old mother’s room and raping her.  In a separate incident a dementia patient reported in September of 2017 that Lawson had allegedly been coming in and raping her at night.  The same woman also told staff that Lawton was her boyfriend and they were in a relationship.

A staff member at another facility who went to pick up a patient being transported to their facility from San Juan Rehab Center, said the residents and staff were “teasing” Lawton that his girlfriend was leaving.  The same staff member said that Lawton would visit the woman at her new facility and she told detectives she once walked in on Lawton and the 84-year old woman “under the covers together.” The staff member told detectives she had also see the two kiss when they left the facility together.

On March 21st, Detectives received information about another possible victim. Court documents state that an 84-year old woman told detectives that while she was at San Juan Rehab Center, Lawton would rub her feet and while doing so would tell her that some women find it sexual and that it can lead to sexual climax.

In May of 2018, a report was made by a new administrator for San Juan rehab on behalf of a 67-year old resident. The resident had told an employee that Lawton had put an eye mask on her and kissed her in the spring of 2016.  The woman also said Lawton had tried to masturbate her to orgasm while giving her a bath and stated she had not reported the incident because she didn’t want to get anyone in trouble and she was scared.  The woman initially declined to pursue charges, and was happy that Lawton had been terminated and would not be working at another care facility.  The woman changed her mind and decided she wanted to pursue charges once she found out there were other woman who had been molested who couldn’t speak for themselves because they had diminished mental capacities, and at least one person had already passed away.

Detectives attempted several times to contact Lawton for an interview by phone and drove to several listed residences and former residences but were unable to locate Lawton.

On January 2nd, 2019 an attorney representing Lawton contacted the Anacortes Police Department and advised that Lawton would not be speaking to detectives about the allegations.

Willie Orland Lawton III was arrested on April 29th, 2019 and booked into the Skagit County Community Justice Center at 8:45 a.m.  for charges of  Rape 2nd of an incapable victim, indecent liberties, and two counts of Assault 4th degree with sexual motivation. He is currently being held in Lieu of $250,000 bail.

Lawton is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 


Reference Anacortes Police Department case #18-A00894. Superior Court Case # 19-1-00418-29



About the Author

Chris Nelson
I'm a long time Skagit County Resident. I believe in doing the right thing and helping others when you can.

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