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Originally published July 11, 2009 at 11:48 AM | Page modified July 11, 2009 at 10:55 PM

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Children: Father didn't abuse us: Ex-Vancouver police officer spent nearly 20 years in prison

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The two adult children of former Vancouver police officer Clyde Ray Spencer, who spent nearly 20 years in prison after being convicted of molesting them, testified in court Friday the abuse never happened.

The Columbian

VANCOUVER, Wash. — The two adult children of former Vancouver police Officer Clyde Ray Spencer, who spent nearly 20 years in prison after being convicted of molesting them, testified in court Friday that the abuse never happened.

A 33-year-old son recalled how, at age 9, he was repeatedly questioned, alone, by now-retired Detective Sharon Krause, of the Clark County Sheriff's Office. He said that after months of questioning, he said he had been abused just to get Krause to leave him alone.

A 30-year-old daughter said she doesn't remember what she told Krause at age 5, but recalled Krause bought her ice cream.

The brother and sister, who live in Sacramento, Calif., said that while growing up in California they were told by their mother, who divorced Spencer before he was charged, that they were blocking out the memory of the abuse.

They said they realized as adults the abuse had never happened.

The fallout from Friday's hearing won't be known for months, after appellate judges weigh in. But the hearing does pave the way for the state Court of Appeals to allow Spencer to withdraw the no-contest pleas he entered in 1985 and have his convictions vacated.

After Matthew Spencer and Kathryn Tetz each took a turn on the witness stand, Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis said their testimony followed the written declarations they filed with the Court of Appeals.

Written declarations

Since the appellate court doesn't take live testimony from witnesses, Lewis was ordered to listen to the siblings testify and see whether they stuck by their written declarations, even under cross-examination by a prosecuting attorney.

They did, Lewis said.

Spencer, 61, who goes by Ray, hugged his son and daughter after the hearing while a dozen supporters cheered.

In 1985, Spencer was also convicted of abusing a 4-year-old stepson, who was not at Friday's hearing.

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The Court of Appeals ruled his testimony was not necessary, given his age at the time of the alleged crimes and the fact that his mother had had an affair with Krause's supervisor.

According to Krause, the detective, the children were together when they were abused.

Both Matthew Spencer and Tetz testified their stepbrother was never abused by their father.

In 1985, Spencer entered the no-contest pleas, a type of guilty plea, after learning his court-appointed attorney had not prepared a defense. He felt pleading no contest was his only option, and that he would appeal his convictions.

Former Judge Thomas Lodge sentenced Spencer to two life terms in prison plus 14 years.

For several years, Spencer's appeals failed. He was denied parole five times because he refused to admit guilt and enter a sex-offender treatment program.

He hired Seattle attorney Peter Camiel in the mid-1990s. Camiel and a private investigator uncovered disturbing facts about the investigation — including that prosecutors withheld medical exams that showed no evidence of abuse, despite Krause's claims that the children had been violently, repeatedly raped. Those discoveries led Gov. Gary Locke to commute Spencer's sentence in 2004.

Spencer was ordered to be on supervision for three years.

He's still a convicted sex offender, and Friday's hearing was another step in the long process of clearing his name.

The process has taken its toll on Spencer, who suffered a heart attack in April.

"For so many years, nothing went right," said Spencer. "When things keep going right, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop."

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kim Farr grilled Spencer's son and daughter about why they are so certain they weren't abused.

Matthew Spencer said he knew his father had ruined the relationship with his mother.

"He had downfalls. But none of them were molesting children," he said.

Tetz said when she finally read the police reports, she was "absolutely sure" the abuse never happened.

"I would have remembered something that graphic, that violent."

Krause, who declined an interview request from The Columbian in 2005, could not be reached Friday.

If the Court of Appeals vacates Spencer's convictions, the case would return to the Clark County Prosecutor's Office. Charges would either be refiled or dismissed.

Appeal possible

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Dennis Hunter wasn't ready to wave a white flag on Friday. He said if convictions are tossed, prosecutors could appeal to the state Supreme Court.

After the hearing, Spencer, who has received his doctorate in clinical psychology but cannot get his state license as long as he has a criminal record, said he will just have to wait and see.

But at least he has his children, who didn't talk to him for more than 20 years.

"They were my life, and they were taken away from me. That was the hardest part. I could serve in prison," Spencer said, before his voice trailed off, and his son came up for another hug.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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