Advertising

Originally published September 6, 2011 at 8:40 PM | Page modified September 7, 2011 at 3:40 PM

Editor's note: Commenting has been disabled because of the sensitive nature of this story and because many previous comments about the subject violated our terms of service.

Suspect in child-rape scheme was never a psychologist

David Scratchley is not all he claimed to be, though it wouldn't be apparent if you followed his career.

Seattle Times staff reporters

David Scratchley is not all he claimed to be, though it wouldn't be apparent if you followed his career.

The head of a Seattle drug-treatment center, Scratchley authored books, gave speeches to city employees and co-hosted a radio show. He has worked in the Seattle area at least 23 years and is regarded as a local expert on substance abuse and addictions.

Scratchley, 52, flatly claimed in a recent video to be a psychologist.

He is not.

He is training to be certified by the state as a chemical-dependency counselor, according to the Department of Health.

That's just one of the mysteries and exaggerations that surround Scratchley, who was arrested early Friday and has been held without bail at the King County Jail on investigation of attempted rape of a child in the first degree and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.

According to Seattle police, Scratchley talked with a woman about raping a 10-year-old boy at his Belltown apartment on Thursday.

The woman, who said she met Scratchley through drug treatment, contacted police Thursday afternoon after being fearful that Scratchley planned to go ahead with the sexual assault.

Police found the child inside Scratchley's apartment building and took him to Harborview Medical Center; investigators did not say whether the child had been harmed. They also found suspected cocaine in the apartment, according to a Seattle police report.

King County prosecutors said that Wednesday is their deadline to file charges against Scratchley in Superior Court.

The state Department of Health opened an investigation of Scratchley on Tuesday because of media attention surrounding his arrest, though department officials said they have never received a complaint about him.

One thing the health department will focus on is Scratchley's claim he is a psychologist.

Scratchley, clinical manager of the treatment program at the Matt Talbot New Hope Recovery Center, has never been a licensed psychologist in the state of Washington, according to Department of Health officials and records.

There is no gray area when it comes to making such a claim, said Betty Moe, a department program manager. State law prohibits anyone from calling themselves a psychologist unless they've obtained such a credential from the Department of Health.

"We have very stringent qualifications," Moe said, including a state exam.

The only state health license Scratchley holds is as a "certified chemical dependency professional trainee," issued in 2009.

That means Scratchley is not fully licensed in treating chemical dependence.

"He is gaining the experience hours to be licensed. He is in the training phase. He is at the entry level," Moe said.

The investigation could take up to a year, Moe said.

When asked Tuesday about Scratchley's résumé, Greg Alex, executive director at the Matt Talbot center, rattled off from memory impressive credentials — Ph.D. in clinical psychology and neuropsychology, former professor at Seattle University, researcher at Seattle Children's Home, and expert witness for the FBI, the DEA and the courts system.

Alex said he is certain the center ran a background check on Scratchley before he was hired.

Seattle University says Scratchley was a part-time lecturer from 1988 until 2002.

He worked at Seattle Children's hospital from 2002 to 2004 in an administrative role in a research program — away from patients, said hospital spokeswoman Louise Maxwell.

Julie Mitchell, senior vice president of operations at the Kirkland-based Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers, said Scratchley worked there between August 2004 and March 2005 to create a treatment program, but had no patient contact.

Mitchell declined to talk about the program, which wasn't implemented, she said. She also wouldn't discuss the circumstances surrounding Scratchley's departure.

Officials at Seattle Children's Home did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.

Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, which oversees the Matt Talbot center, has placed Scratchley on administrative leave while the investigation continues, according to a news release.

"He's always operated with the highest level of professionalism and care for the clients," said Alex, who said he has been friends with Scratchley for 15 years.

"We're shocked, we're dismayed, we're obviously concerned about these allegations and about the well-being of a child and of anybody in this circumstance," Alex said. "We never had an inkling of anything that resembled (this)."

The Matt Talbot center is an outpatient facility for adults, and police said Scratchley met the 10-year-old boy through his mother while she was somehow connected with the program.

Police said the boy told them he had been allowed to spend time alone with Scratchley several times. On some of these occasions, including Thursday, Scratchley talked to him about sex, the boy said, according to the affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.

The woman who contacted police Thursday told investigators Scratchley had "talked about sexual fantasies that he had about children and told her that he had sexually abused children in the past," Detective Susana DiTusa wrote in the affidavit.

The woman "led Scratchley to believe that she was a willing participant in the events he was planning with the victim," according to the affidavit.

While at the Matt Talbot center, Scratchley had little contact with patients, Alex said. He consulted with staff about their work with patients and he did some patient assessments, Alex said.

Alex said staff at the Matt Talbot center are not regularly drug-tested.

"If we saw anything to be concerned with we would test," he said, adding that there was nothing in Scratchley's behavior that raised a concern about drug use.

The city of Seattle last year paid Scratchley to speak to its youth-violence prevention workers about teen substance abuse.

"He's a very dynamic, charismatic speaker," said Mariko Lockhart, director of the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative.

Scratchley had been recommended by the city's Human Services Department, Lockhart said.

He was knowledgeable, she said. "How to recognize different types of abuse and symptoms, what was trending at the time. The information rang true."

Lockhart recalled that the city paid about $300 for Scratchley to speak last November to outreach workers.

News of his arrest was shocking, she said. "If true, it's just horrifying and gives cause for much pause because we certainly heard strong community recommendations" about him.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon




Advertising