The allegations came to light after Sig Hansen’s estranged daughter — a family-law attorney in Seattle — sued her famous father, claiming she was abused as a child.
Snohomish County prosecutors are re-examining allegations that celebrity crab-boat captain Sig Hansen sexually abused his toddler daughter nearly three decades ago, after the now 28-year-old woman recently went public with the claims against her estranged father.
Deputy prosecutor Matthew Baldock last week informed an attorney for Melissa Eckstrom, Hansen’s estranged daughter, that Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe recently asked him to review the 1990 case file “to see if criminal charges are viable.”
“I’ve already obtained our file from archives and I’ve started working my way through the reports and other pertinent material,” Baldock, who heads the prosecutor’s Special Assault Unit, wrote in an March 23 email to Lincoln Beauregard, one of Eckstrom’s lawyers.
“Once I have completed my review I intend to inform Mr. Roe of my conclusions and at that point he may conduct his own review of the file,” Baldock added in the email. “In any event, once we’ve determined whether this is a case that can/should be reconsidered for prosecution, we will inform Ms. Eckstrom.”
The prosecutor’s office declined to file charges against Hansen in the early 1990s after at least three reviews of the case. Under Washington law, sex crimes committed against children generally can be prosecuted up to the victim’s 30th birthday. Eckstrom turns 29 next month.
Hansen, 50, a Shoreline resident who has gained fame as the hard-charging Norwegian-American skipper of the Seattle-based fishing vessel The Northwestern on the cable TV series “The Deadliest Catch,” vehemently denies the allegations.
“This is nothing more than an old-fashioned shakedown,” he said earlier this month.
Hansen gave up his parental rights to Eckstrom in 1992, after a contentious divorce with her mother, Lisa Eckstrom. He contends Eckstrom’s lawsuit is her family’s latest attempt to leverage the false claims as a way to extort money from him.
Eckstrom’s allegations are detailed in a civil lawsuit she originally filed anonymously under her and her father’s initials last year. The case relies on her memories of the abuse, as well as medical examinations,a therapist’s evaluation and state Child Protective Services’ findings from the time that concluded Hansen likely sexually abused the then-2-year-old girl. The abuse allegedly occurred in 1990, during Eckstrom’s home visitations with Hansen and his parents in Edmonds during the divorce.
The allegations emerged publicly this month after Eckstrom — a family-law attorney in Seattle — shared records and other information with The Seattle Times.
Last month, a King County judge denied Hansen’s attempt to get Eckstrom’s suit dismissed on grounds that a judge who handled the divorce case had ruled then that Hansen didn’t commit the abuse. The state Court of Appeals is now considering a request to review whether the ruling that would allow Eckstrom’s case to proceed to trial is legally sound.
After the allegations emerged in July 1990, Edmonds police investigated the case and arrested Hansen, records show. Prosecutors later reviewed the case at least three times but opted not to file charges, citing proof problems.
“This is not to suggest we do not believe the allegations,” Deputy Prosecutor Paul Stern wrote in an August 1990 letter to Lisa Eckstrom, after the first case review. “To the contrary, the information at hand suggests that Mr. Hansen has acted in a sexually inappropriate manner toward Melissa.”
Hansen and his attorneys have offered their own records and set up a website — sighansenfacts.com — to refute the allegations. The documents include a letter from a polygraph examiner that states Hansen passed a lie-detector test during which he denied the allegations, and written statements from a social worker and an ex-boyfriend of Lisa Eckstrom that Hansen’s lawyers contend show she probably made up the abuse claims.
Lafcadio Darling, one of Hansen’s attorneys, said in a statement Monday that he’s not heard anything from the prosecutor’s office, “but we are abundantly confident that the prosecuting attorney will consider the informed conclusion of trial judge Peter Steere, the court appointed psychologist, and the court appointed guardian ad litem who unanimously concluded in 1992 that Lisa Eckstrom’s claims were completely unfounded.”
During the divorce case, Steere agreed with the court-assigned psychiatrist’s assessment that found sexual abuse probably didn’t occur, but that the girl’s claims more likely were false and caused by “parent alienation syndrome.”
That controversial theory — which many legal and mental-health experts have discredited in recent years as “junk science” — posits that false sexual-abuse claims or other accusations emerge when one parent repeatedly denigrates the other parent to the child.
Last week, Beauregard suggested in an email to Baldock that prosecutors consider “at least two key changes of circumstance” when reviewing the case: that Eckstrom is now able to competently testify, based on her memories, and that parental alienation syndrome has since been “declared invalid and played a big role in the earlier considerations.”
“These are different times,” Beauregard added in an interview Monday. “There’s more of a willingness to prosecute sexual-abuse cases, and with the evidence in this case, there is no reason they shouldn’t charge this.”
Baldock won’t comment on the case until a charging decision has been made, an assistant for the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office said Monday.