Editor’s note: King County prosecutors dismissed the criminal charges filed against Thomas Brownlee on Jan. 12, 2021. Kirkland police searched Brownlee’s phone and found a Snapchat conversation between Brownlee and his alleged victim that King County prosecutors say was evidence she consented to participate in what was described as a rape fantasy. That story can be found here.
King County prosecutors say a 21-year-old Kirkland man abducted a severely autistic woman from outside her parents’ Tacoma home last weekend, drove her to his apartment where he beat, strangled and repeatedly raped her, then told her he planned to sell her to his friends for sex.
After the 18-year-old woman was able to call 911 and waved to officers from a window, Thomas Kirk Brownlee was arrested at his apartment on Sunday morning and spent about 24 hours in the King County Jail before posting $100,000 bail on Monday, jail and court records show. He was taken back into custody early Wednesday and charged with first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping and second-degree assault; he was released again after posting bond on $500,000 bail about 16 hours later, according to the records.
Brownlee does not appear to have any criminal convictions in Washington and a police form attached to the criminal charges indicates his driver’s license was issued in Texas.
“The facts of this case are terrifying and horrific. An 18 year old victim, who is diagnosed with the most severe form of Autism, was abducted, brutalized, terrorized and sexually violated by the defendant. Her body is now a roadmap to the multiple acts of abuse the defendant inflicted upon her,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Christian Brown wrote in charging papers.
Brown wrote that the woman’s injuries, documented by a sexual-assault nurse examiner, are some of the “most extreme” he’s seen during his time assigned to the King County Prosecutor’s Sexual Assault Unit.
“Additionally, the blatant disregard for human dignity is apparent throughout the certification (for probable cause). The defendant was not satisfied by just forcibly abusing the victim’s body, but he also preyed upon her lifelong love of animals,” Brown wrote. “The defendant threatened to kill his own cat in front of the victim if she did not submit to his demands.”
It was not clear Thursday whether Brownlee had an attorney.
According to the charges:
The 18-year-old woman spent about three hours on Saturday trading Snapchat messages with a man she had never met.
Around 8 p.m., the woman was outside her parents’ house in Tacoma, tending to her rabbits in the side yard, when a man she didn’t know but assumed was a new neighbor approached her, grabbed her by the hair and dragged her into his car, according to the charging documents.
Her parents called Tacoma police and reported her missing just before 10:30 p.m., advising officers of their daughter’s autism diagnosis.
A Kirkland police detective later wrote that in speaking with the woman, “you immediately notice she is not fully functioning at her age, speech and mannerisms are those of a child years younger,” according to the charges, which say that the woman’s mental capacity is similar to that of a 12-year-old.
At 9:05 a.m. Sunday, Kirkland police were dispatched to a 911 call of a woman in distress. The woman was able to tell the dispatcher she had been abducted before the call dropped. The dispatcher determined the call was placed from the vicinity of an apartment complex in the 12700 block of Northeast 144th Street.
The woman made a second 911 call and with the help of a dispatcher, directed officers to the correct building and waved to them from the window of the room where she was being held. When an officer knocked on the door of the third-story unit, Brownlee answered the door and was arrested. The woman was taken to Harborview Medical Center.
Inside the apartment, an officer saw an open computer screen where a message had been written to one of the man’s friends, according to the charges: The message said he was in deep trouble, wouldn’t be home for a while and provided the apartment’s address and instructions for feeding the cat.
According to the woman’s account to the officer and medics, she was forcibly kissed and touched during the drive to Kirkland. The man then dragged her inside the apartment by her hair, beat and raped her multiple times, and at one point strangled her into unconsciousness.
The woman told police she was able to call 911 while the man was distracted by his cat. Once he realized she was calling police, he tried to grab the phone away from her but the woman kept hold of it and again called 911. The man left the room and “started yelling and cussing” until police arrived.
In a forensic interview Tuesday, the woman told the examiner at one point, the man had threatened to strangle his cat in front of her, telling her she would have to wear a collar and eat from the cat’s bowl if she resisted him, the charges say. The man also told her, “now that I have broke you in, I’m going to sell you to my friends,” according to charging papers.
A nurse at Harborview documented that the woman had physical injuries including bruises, bite marks, extensive swelling and difficulty breathing and swallowing as a result of being strangled, the charges say.
Brownlee is to be arraigned Sept. 16, at which time prosecutors intend to ask a judge to place him on electronic-home monitoring, according to a spokesperson for Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.