The tips started coming in shortly after authorities released surveillance photos of a man suspected of groping an 11-year-old girl at a Fred Meyer store in Snohomish.
The callers were certain the thin man in glasses was Curtis Anton Beseda, who once served 12 years in federal prison for setting fire to abortion clinics in Western Washington in the 1980s.
At least three people said they were “100 percent sure” it was Beseda, including an employee at an Everett restaurant he was said to frequent; a person who went to college with him; and a former high-school classmate, according to Snohomish County prosecutors.
Trouble is, no one knows where he is.
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Beseda was charged with first-degree child molestation in Snohomish County Superior Court on Friday, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Snohomish County prosecutors allege that Beseda, 58, was at the Fred Meyer store at 2801 Bickford Ave. on Jan. 27 when he approached an 11-year-old girl who was waiting for her father outside a restroom.
Beseda leaned so close to the girl she could feel his breath on her ear, then he pressed his pelvis into her backside and fondled her buttocks and thigh, prosecutors wrote in the affidavit of probable cause that lays out the state’s case.
He left when a Starbucks employee approached them, court documents say.
The girl told police that the man offered to buy the drink she was holding and “sneak” it to her outside, court documents say. She also said she was afraid the man was trying to lure her from the store and was “trying to do something bad,” prosecutors say.
Video surveillance corroborated the girl’s story, police and prosecutors said.
In an effort to identify the suspect, police last week released still photographs taken from the store’s surveillance video.
The person who knew Beseda from college described him as having “unique mannerisms” and a condition that apparently compels him to hover at doorways, entering and exiting several times, before finally going in or out, court documents indicate.
Prosecutors say the video obtained from the Fred Meyer store shows the suspect going partially in and out of the sliding door before exiting.
Police also heard from a woman who identified the suspect as her downstairs neighbor, court documents say.
The neighbor did not know Beseda’s name but told police she was sure he was the man in the pictures based on his “distinctive facial features and hairstyle,” prosecutors say in charging documents.
The neighbor told police Beseda had not returned to his Snohomish apartment since the day the surveillance photographs were released, according to prosecutors. She also provided police with Beseda’s license-plate number and a short video she’d taken of him walking to get his mail, according to prosecutors.
The woman told police she took the video because he “had an odd way of walking, counting his steps and avoiding cracks,” according to charging documents.
Beseda was convicted of arson and trespassing for setting three fires in Everett at the Feminist Women’s Health Center in 1983 and 1984 and setting a fire at a women’s health clinic in Bellingham where abortions were performed.
The Everett clinic never reopened after it was destroyed by the third arson.
At his trial in U.S. District Court, Beseda admitted to setting the fires, saying he did it for the “glory of God.” He also said he made sure there were no people inside because he didn’t want to hurt anyone.
He said he was unhappy he caused people emotional distress but was glad that he might have helped prevent some abortions.
He served 12 years of a 20-year sentence and was released in 1996, according to court documents.
While imprisoned, Beseda became a martyr for the anti-abortion movement and was honored at a national anti-abortion banquet in 1995, according to The Associated Press.
In 1997 he was taken back into custody on a parole violation and rereleased in 2003, court documents show.
Since then, he has accrued three misdemeanor convictions for criminal trespassing and fourth-degree assault, according to court documents.
The (Everett) Herald reported that Beseda was accused of attempted arson in Snohomish and ordered to undergo a mental-health evaluation in 2004, although he was ultimately acquitted of reckless burning.
Police also say that Beseda was banned from the church and school grounds of the Immaculate Conception Church in Everett after he was accused of trespassing and obstructing, according to The Herald.
Three years ago, he was arrested in a harassment case in Puyallup, convicted and sent to one of the state’s mental hospitals.
According to charging documents, police are attempting to track Beseda through his electronic food-stamp card, which has shown no activity since his picture was publicized on Feb. 5.
Christine Clarridge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8983.
Information from Seattle Times archives and The Associated Press is included in this report.