Longtime molestation suspect pleads guilty to 3 child rape counts

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WENATCHEE — Theron Jay Heideman, long accused of sexually abusing children in his household but never criminally charged until 2017, pleaded guilty Thursday to three counts of first-degree child rape.

Heideman, 54, faces a likely sentence of 189 months in prison — almost 16 years — when he’s sentenced Dec. 17 by Chelan County Judge Travis Brandt. He has no prior criminal history, despite sex-abuse investigations going back to 1999.

Heideman has been jailed since his arrest in March 2017, when adult victims who lived in Heideman’s home as children began to come forward and disclose their abuse. He initially faced 14 counts of child rape and sexual abuse, involving four victims.

The plea agreement with the Chelan County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office involves offenses against three victims between roughly 2001 and 2014. None were present for the plea hearing. Deputy Prosecutor Julia Hartnell recommended the 189-month prison term as part of the agreement.

In past investigations from 1999 to 2009, Heideman was accused multiple times of sexual and physical abuse carried out against his own children, while living in Wenatchee. But police and social services agencies said statements by the children and family witnesses were contradictory, and the alleged victims often withdrew their statements. He was never charged.

In 2011 three of Heideman’s grown children sued the state Department of Social and Health Services, claiming the agency failed to properly investigate their claims. Seven years later, DSHS settled that case with a $2.5 million payment to Heideman’s alleged victims. The agency did not admit wrongdoing.