A Lewis County woman is in the process of suing a Centralia Police sergeant and his supervisors, along with a Lewis County Sheriff’s Office detective and his supervisors, for damages after she allegedly suffered physical and emotional injuries from an abusive relationship with the sergeant.
The claimant, Erin McPeak, has accused Sgt. Corey Butcher of the Centralia Police Department of sexually and emotionally abusing her from June 2019 to October 2020. Additionally, she accuses Special Services Bureau Chief Kevin Engelbertson of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Rob Snaza, Centralia Police Chief Stacey Denham, the City of Centralia and Lewis County of negligence for allegedly failing to properly investigate and take action against Butcher after McPeak reported the abuse to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office in November 2020.
The proposed tort complaint, a civil claim where a plaintiff has suffered damages due to wrongful behavior, was drafted by McPeak's Vancouver attorney on May 23. The defendants were officially notified May 24.
Under Washington state law, a lawsuit cannot be filed until 60 days after the defendants receive notice, in order to give the defendants time to respond.
McPeak alleges that Butcher purposefully failed to disclose that he had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) before entering a sexual relationship with her and “recklessly caused substantial bodily harm by infecting her,” according to court documents. He reportedly disclosed that he had symptoms of the STD after McPeak was diagnosed.
As a result of the STD, McPeak argues she has incurred significant medical costs in addition to a loss of earnings and a loss of future earning capacity, according to court documents. And because McPeak “did not consent to having sexual relations with an infected … individual,” her attorney argues that Butcher’s failure to disclose his infection rendered all sex between them non-consensual, according to court documents.
McPeak additionally alleges that throughout their relationship, Butcher displayed severe anger issues and utilized emotional manipulation tactics such as making threatening statements, refusing communication for long periods of time and threatening to kick her out of their shared residence.
In a written account of the abuse, McPeak relayed an occasion she contemplated calling 911 because she believed Butcher was going to hit her, but she decided not to do so because she knew the officer working that shift was friends with Butcher.
“I wasn’t going to place myself in that situation,” she wrote.
Butcher joined the Centralia Police Department in 2009 and was promoted to sergeant in January 2019.
McPeak stated that Butcher lived a “double life” and portrayed a “charming, friendly and caring personality” around friends and coworkers.
“The man that he portrays to his fellow police officers, the law enforcement community, and friends is very different from the man that I had a sexual relationship with and lived with in my opinion,” she wrote.
McPeak reported the alleged domestic abuse to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office in November 2020, but McPeak alleges that Engelbertson, the detective who handled the report, “took no action to notify the Centralia Police Department of the crimes committed by Butcher,” despite the fact that his position made him a mandatory reporter under Washington state law.
“This (domestic abuse report) was thoroughly investigated and sent up to the prosecutor’s office,” said Snaza, who declined further comment due to the ongoing nature of the litigation.
Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer confirmed that the sheriff’s office did send the results of their investigation to the prosecutor’s office for review, but the prosecutor’s office did not find probable cause within the investigation material to file criminal charges against Butcher.
McPeak accuses Snaza and Denham of failure “to counsel, supervise and train their subordinates on the proper investigation of domestic violence cases involving their employees.” Likewise, Lewis County and the City of Centralia are accused of negligence for failing to investigate and supervise their employees.
“We believe that the staff has been carefully trained in that arena,” said Denham, adding that he “strongly contests” the accusations against himself and the City of Centralia.
McPeak additionally accuses Denham of “allow(ing) their emotionally and mentally disturbed officer to remain in patrol status, knowing that his employee … had abnormal and violent behaviors,” according to court documents.
McPeak is suing for medical and counseling expenses, loss of earnings to date and loss of future earning capacity, court costs, and whatever other relief the court deems appropriate.
“I was unaware that any of this was going on,” said Denham, who said he first learned about the accusations against his officer when he received a copy of the proposed tort claim.
On the claim for damages form submitted to the City of Centralia, the amount requested is listed as $1 million. The claim for damages form submitted to Lewis County lists that amount at $500,000.
The official proposed claim submitted in Lewis County Superior Court does not list a specific amount.
The Lewis County Risk Management Office and the City of Centralia Risk Management Office will handle investigation of the claim through the end of the 60-day waiting period.
If a resolution hasn’t reached by the end of those 60 days, then a lawsuit will be filed in Lewis County Superior Court.
As of The Chronicle’s Wednesday publication deadline, Butcher had not responded to a request for comment submitted through the police department.