The wrong man was arrested in connection with the rape and assault of a woman at a North Bend pizzeria earlier this month, police and prosecutors say.
The 41-year-old North Bend resident was arrested Tuesday and held in custody overnight. At a court appearance before a King County District Court judge Wednesday, it was announced the man was being released from jail without being charged.
North Bend-Snoqualmie Police Chief Steve McCulley said DNA evidence processed at the state crime lab cleared the man.
He is no longer a suspect, McCulley said.
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“DNA tests are pretty conclusive,” he said.
McCulley said the man’s release was both “unfortunate in that we have not been able to bring closure to the victim, but fortunate in that an innocent person has been released.”
He said the man initially became a suspect based on evidence found inside the restaurant, information from the victim and a belief that the attacker had targeted or known either the woman or the restaurant. He also was reported to have been a former employee at the pizzeria, police said.
McCulley said Wednesday that his detectives will resume the investigation, looking for new leads and re-examining old ones.
The attack happened just after closing March 9 at Jay Berry’s Gourmet Pizza at Pasta in the 400 block of Southwest Mount Si Boulevard.
The sole employee working at that time, a mother of two in her 30s, was closing the restaurant at the end of her shift when she stepped outside the back door around 11 p.m., police said.
She was accosted by a man who forced her back into the restaurant, where he bound her with duct tape, then sexually assaulted and stabbed her, police said.
The victim was not able to give police more than a vague description of her attacker as he wore a hoodie and some sort of scarf over his face, police said.
The woman suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue. She has been treated and released, police said.
The assault happened just two days after the Snoqualmie Police Department began providing law-enforcement services for its neighbor city. Previously, the city contracted with the King County Sheriff’s Office for police services.
McCulley had said early Wednesday that it was gratifying to make an arrest and show residents that they can feel secure.
“We’re glad to be able to show that Snoqualmie police can and will do high-quality police work,” he said.
He acknowledged it was a little embarrassing to have arrested the wrong person, but he stood by the decision. He said detectives believed they had probable cause to hold the man and would have been remiss had they not taken him into custody at that point.
He also said it could be seen as evidence that the system was working.
“We took him into custody and he was released when the evidence cleared him,” McCulley said.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the wife and sister of the 41-year-old North Bend man teared up when told he was being released but declined to speak after the hearing.
The owner of the restaurant declined to comment when reached by phone.
Information from Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf and Times archives is included in this report.
Christine Clarridge: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8983