VANCOUVER, Wash. – Former Vancouver police officer Clyde Ray Spencer spent nearly 20 years in prison after he was convicted of sexually molesting his son and daughter. Now, the children say it never happened.
Matthew Spencer and Kathryn Tetz, who live in Sacramento, Calif., each took the stand Friday in Clark County Superior Court to clear their father's name, The Columbian newspaper reported.
Matthew, now 33, was 9 years old at the time. He told a judge he made the allegation after months of insistent questioning by now-retired Clark County sheriff's detective Sharon Krause just so she would leave him alone.
Tetz, 30, said she doesn't remember what she told Krause back in 1985, but she remembers Krause buying her ice cream. She said that when she finally read the police reports she was "absolutely sure" the abuse never happened.
"I would have remembered something that graphic, that violent," Tetz said.
Spencer's sentence was commuted by then-Gov. Gary Locke in 2004 after questions arose about his conviction. Among other problems, prosecutors withheld medical exams that showed no evidence of abuse, even though Krause claimed the abuse was repeated and violent.
Despite the commutation, Spencer remains a convicted sex offender. He is hoping to have the convictions overturned.
Krause declined an interview request from The Columbian in 2005 and could not be reached Friday, the newspaper reported.
Both children 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 never happened, and they came forward because it was the right thing to do.
Prosecutors aren't yet conceding that Spencer was wrongly convicted.
Senior deputy prosecutor Kim Farr grilled the children about why they are so certain they weren't abused, and chief criminal deputy prosecutor Dennis Hunter said that if the convictions are tossed, his office might appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Matthew Spencer said his father had ruined the relationship with his mother and he had faults, "but none of them were molesting children."
Friday's hearing paved 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.
Both children had previously filed statements with the appeals court, but the judges required the hearing to ensure their new testimony held up under cross-examination.
Spencer, 61, hugged his son and daughter afterward while a dozen supporters cheered.
"For so many years, nothing went right," he said. "When things keep going right, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop."
The hardest thing about his ordeal was missing his children, he said.
"They were my life, and they were taken away from me," he said. "I could serve in prison. ..."
His voice trailed off, and his son came up for one more hug.