PROSSER -- Sexting between a former Prosser mayor and a teenage boy that allegedly escalated into inappropriate sexual contact has resulted in felony charges against the 49-year-old woman.
Linda Lusk is expected to appear in Benton County Superior Court next week to enter a plea to a charge of third-degree child molestation.
The boy's parents also have obtained temporary restraining orders against Lusk for themselves and their son.
Lusk, who served one term as Prosser's mayor but lost her re-election bid in 2007, is accused of sending sexually explicit text messages to the boy, including a picture of herself partially undressed, according to Benton County sheriff's officials and court documents.
Sexual contact allegedly occurred when the boy went to Lusk's house during his lunch hour on an early-release day from school in late April.
"While they were talking, the defendant took him to her daughter's bedroom and eventually touched his penis and asked him to touch her breasts, which he did," documents say.
Prosecutor Andy Miller announced the charge in a Wednesday news conference at the sheriff's office with Capt. Steve Keane and Detective Sgt. Dan McCary.
Rumors had been circulating about the incident in Prosser for days but the Herald couldn't get confirmation about the alleged activity until after the charges were filed Wednesday.
Miller said a series of text messages, which became inappropriate over time, were exchanged between Lusk and the boy.
Lusk was not arrested or jailed. Miller said there's no concern about her leaving the area or contacting the boy.
A Herald reporter went to Lusk's home Wednesday and her husband, Kevin Lusk, said they had no comment about the case.
Linda Lusk's attorney, Scott Johnson, said an agreement was reached to allow Lusk to appear at her arraignment next week.
"She's fully cooperating with the police investigation," Johnson said.
Prosser police contacted the teen's parents June 2 after reportedly hearing he had told some friends that Linda Lusk had "performed a sexual act on him," documents said.
The sheriff's office took over the investigation the following day because of possible conflicts of interest from Lusk's past position as mayor, Keane said. He said nothing was revealed in the investigation to implicate Lusk in similar alleged contact with other minors.
The teen is a student at Prosser High School, where Kevin Lusk is the principal.
Linda Lusk, the mother of four kids and two stepchildren, owns a handbag boutique in Prosser called Get a Grip. She became Prosser's first female mayor when she was elected in 2003.
She has been featured in the Herald a number of times, including a story last year after her 15-year-old son Taylor died from a chromosomal abnormality. His family believed he was the oldest person in the country then living with Trisomy 13.
Lusk previously had filled in as substitute para-educator for the Prosser School District and worked mostly with special needs children, according to a biography she posted on her high school class reunion page in 2009.
The Herald is withholding names of the boy and other family members involved in the case under a policy not to reveal the identity of those who report sexual assault.
The boy's parents, who live on a rural property between Prosser and Grandview, could not be reached by telephone for comment.
But an uncle said family members were very upset.
He said Lusk had been texting his nephew and his own son, who is younger than his nephew.
"I looked at (my son's Facebook page) and saw her message that he had such beautiful eyes," the uncle said.
"I thought it was odd that a 40-something-year-old lady was texting a (young) boy," he said. "She was texting him every day."
He said his nephew had shown his son photos of Lusk wearing a bra. He said the nephew told his son that he had called Lusk and she confirmed sending the photo to him.
The uncle said Lusk had held pool parties at her home, inviting up to eight young boys.
"My son told me she'd get in the pool and flirt around, showing her cleavage," he said.
He said the boys, including his son, also sometimes helped Lusk at her store.
The uncle added he wants to feel sorry for Lusk.
"Everybody makes mistakes and she has done a lot for the community," he said.
"I feel sorry for her husband and daughter," he said.
But he also said he believes she should be prosecuted.
The uncle said his son and nephew didn't want to say anything at first, afraid that talking might get Lusk into trouble "and ruin her life."
"They are just young, naive children," he said.
The boy's mother filed petitions for a sexual assault protection order against Linda Lusk on behalf of her son and requested a protection order for herself and her husband.
In the restraining order request, the teen's mother wrote that Lusk left a message for her June 2 stating she wanted to meet with her and her husband about their son.
The mother said she returned Lusk's call later that day and Lusk told her she had "grown very fond of my son over the past few years" and that he was a "very great kid."
Lusk told the mother that she had been texting her son for some time and it had gotten out of hand the past few months, court documents said.
"She told me it was very inappropriate on her part and that she was sick to her stomach and if she could go back in time she would," the mother wrote in the restraining order request.
Lusk also reportedly told her she had heard the boy's friends had been talking about it at school and she wanted to meet with his parents so they wouldn't be "blindsided by it all."
The petitions were filed Tuesday and are expected to be heard in Benton County Superior Court on June 18.
-- Paula Horton: 509-582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org
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