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Once a top leader at JBLM, Army colonel now sentenced for domestic violence assault

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)
November 02, 2022

An Army colonel who was formerly a top leader at Joint Base Lewis-McChord was sentenced Friday to five years in prison for beating his wife while armed with a gun and causing a standoff with police in 2020.

Col. Owen Ray, once the chief of staff to I Corps at JBLM, was convicted in a jury trial last month of second-degree assault, felony harassment and reckless endangerment for pointing a firearm at his wife and children at their DuPont home after he had been drinking, then kicking his wife in the face and body.

According to court records, the incident led to an hours-long police standoff where Ray threatened to kill any officers who tried to arrest him.

Ray’s now ex-wife, Kristin, wrote to the court and said the attack left her with a dislocated rib and two cracked teeth. She also said it terrorized their three children, ages 9, 12 and 18, leaving the girls with “scary memories” of the bedrooms where they hid with their mother while Ray kicked down doors to find them.

“I was on the third floor trying to stay away from him,” Kristin Ray wrote. “He purposely put on his shoes, he purposely got his gun, and he purposefully stormed through the house flinging open doors looking for me.”

Pierce County prosecutors requested that Ray serve a nine-year sentence, above the standard sentencing range of what defendants tried in similar cases receive.

After a statement from Ray, who said he was “forever remorseful” for his actions, Superior Judge Timothy Ashcraft said he too was a father, and he wasn’t entirely convinced the defendant had come to grasp the impact his actions had on his children. Ashcraft said he hoped Ray would give it more thought. Ray interrupted, telling Ashcraft he thinks about it every day.

“Family comes first, and then command, yes sir,” Ray said.

Ashcraft ordered Ray to not have contact with his children for five years and his ex-wife for 10 years. Prosecutors had requested 10-year no contact orders for the children as well. Ashcraft said the matter could be deferred to family court after two years.

In her argument for a lengthier sentence, deputy prosecutor Coreen Schnepf said the harm Ray had caused his wife and children would last a lifetime, and she criticized Ray for his letters and court pleadings that she said tried to focus the case around himself and his accomplishments.

Before the jury and in court filings, the defendant’s attorney, Jared Ausserer, described Ray as a decorated military veteran whose eight deployments to the Middle East and Asia during wartime left him suffering from severe, untreated post-traumatic stress disorder.

Schnepf said she was glad that Ray has now gone through treatment for those issues, but she said it doesn’t excuse what Ray did that night, and it doesn’t mean he’s taking responsibility.

“The people that should be supporting Kristin Ray and her children still believe, based on the defendant and his comments and statements to them, that they are lying,” Schnepf said. That somehow the children were never in danger. That the gun was never pointed at Kristin Ray and she was never assaulted. These people continue to be manipulated by the defendant.”

Schnepf lauded Kristin’s bravery, saying she disregarded risks to her own life to protect her children by putting herself between them and the gun Ray wielded.

During the defense’s sentencing argument, Ausserer said he was disheartened that prosecutors still wouldn’t recognize that PTSD had an effect on what happened. He said PTSD wasn’t an excuse, but he couldn’t stomach hearing that the trauma Ray faced had nothing to do with the incident.

.”We see it all the time,” Ausserer said. “Somebody who has no criminal history who snaps.”

Reading from a prepared letter, Ray told the court that since the incident, he has done all he can to support his family, improve himself and help others in need. He said there are many more military members suffering from PTSD, and he has written articles about the issue and provided mentorship to veterans and active duty military.

“I am forever remorseful and sincerely apologize to Kristin, my children, family, friends, my community, the Army and this court for my uncharacteristic behavior that night,” Ray wrote. “I brought dishonor to myself, and I will spend the rest of my life rebuilding trust.”

In handing down his sentence, Ashcraft referenced letters of support for Ray submitted to the court, some of which asked what good incarceration does for someone like Ray. Court records show he received 53 pages of letters of support from family, friends, classmates, current and former military members. Ashcraft said incarceration is not only about rehabilitation but also accountability.


(c) 2022 The News Tribune

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