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“The Worst of Anyone Can Be, Finally, an Accident of Hope”

Bob Perez was a police lieutenant in Wenatchee, Washington, when he was made head of the sex crimes unit in 1994.

Perez had no experience in sex crimes (giving/receiving), and even said that his appointment to this role was a mystery. (Not, like, a clandestine mystery, or something a cabal set in motion. Most likely Perez was just the right-shaped piece for that particular administrative hole.)

I’m going to jump a little in time, up to 2013, and Bob Perez’s obituary:

“Bob served on the Police Guild Board as Treasurer and, for several years, headed up the Foster Children’s Christmas Party. He spent hours fulfilling the kids’ wish lists, ‘testing out the toys’ to insure they were “fun” enough for the kids, and then wrapping them with the assistance of his police K-9, Blade, who ended up wrapped in ribbons, bows and a Santa hat in the process. If you knew Bob, you know how hysterical this could be! A huge pizza party would be held for the foster kids and their parents, while case workers, officers and Santa gave out toys and candy in a festive and joy-filled event. Bob looked forward to this each year as a wonderful way to celebrate the season and give to children most in need.”

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I think Bob Perez was a good man — or, I guess, he doesn’t need to have been a bad man for what happened to have happened.

In 1995, not even a full year into his new role as head of sex crimes in Wenatchee (pop. 22,000), Perez was certain he had uncovered a sex-crime-ring. It started when a 15-year-old tried to poison her foster father with iodine. When she was taken into custody, she claimed that he had raped her. Later, the 15-year-old, through her social worker, recanted the rape story entirely. But Perez doubled-down, and arrested the social worker for witness tampering.

It all sort of unspools quickly and wildly from there.

At one point, Perez became convinced that his own foster child was a victim of the sex-crime-ring he had uncovered. He drove her around Wenatchee, asking her to point to any house that looked like a place where she might have been abused. (During this Very Weird Tour of Wenatchee, the foster daughter also revealed that she had been abused by: a taxi driver, a delivery man, and, eventually, and roughly, fortysomething other citizens.)

Ultimately, Perez’s investigation filed over 29 ::thousand:: counts of child sex abuse. Eighteen people were convicted. And, by the end of the ’90s, almost all of those would be overturned.

2013: “Bob retired from the Police Department and, in 1998, he moved to the ‘Ranch’ in Waterville to care for his ailing friend, Virgil, eventually buying the ranch, filling it with horses, dogs, cats and chickens and creating a peaceful environment for he and his son, Bobby, while continuing the fight for justice and truth.”

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