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Scappoose man guilty of sexually abusing his children

by: Courtesy photo Ralph Patterson

A Scappoose man will face a minimum of 75 months in prison after a jury convicted him Friday afternoon of sexual abuse crimes against his son and daughter.

The jury found Ralph Patterson, 54, guilty on four counts of sex abuse and two counts of attempted sodomy, stemming from an investigation and 10-count indictment from earlier in the year. The jury also ruled Patterson not guilty on two counts of sodomy and two counts of attempted sodomy.

Defense attorney Patrick Sweeney requested that a sentencing hearing occur within the next 45 days. During that time, the county's probation department will perform a background check on Patterson, which will be used to render a sentencing recommendation.

Deputy District Attorney John Berg said he could not comment at length about the verdict until Patterson is sentenced later in the summer.

During the three-day trial, the prosecution's defense hinged on testimony provided by Patterson's children, who said they'd been subjected to sexual abuse for more than half a decade. Though the children have different mothers, they both spent time at Patterson's Scappoose residence together and witnessed some of the sexual abuse against each other.

That abuse began in 2002 against Patterson's son, 9 years old at the time, and in 2005 to his daughter, who was 5 years old, Berg said.

Taking the stand, Patterson's daughter, now 11, testified that her father 'made me touch his bad part.' Berg drew a stick figure on a large piece of butcher paper and asked her to circle the 'bad part.' She circled the figure's groin area.

Patterson's teenage son, 17, recounted sexual encounters in his father's room and testified that he witnessed some of the abuse against his half sister. Much of the abuse against him, including what the prosecution deemed 'deviant sexual intercourse,' took place before he turned 12.

The prosecution also relied on diary entries by the daughter, who wrote in detail about the abuse.

Though an investigation into Patterson began in February 2010, some of the most explicit diary entries were not discovered and catalogued as evidence until several months after the investigation had begun.

Throughout the trial, defense attorney Patrick Sweeney argued that the children's eyewitness testimony was unreliable and questioned the validity of late-arriving diary entries, which were discovered by the girl's mother in her home several months after the investigation began.

'We have this late-arriving journal entry,' Sweeney said. 'It doesn't fit with what (the girl) testified; it fits with what (the boy) testified.'

Deputy District Attorney Berg maintained that the children had 'no motive to lie.'

A minimum 75 month conviction is a requirement under the state's Measure 11 mandatory sentencing laws. Circuit Court Judge Jenefer Grant could run the sentences concurrently or separately, which would result in more prison time for Patterson. That decision will be made at sentencing.