Richland man sentenced for kidnapping co-worker

Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldOctober 31, 2013 

A Richland man could spend up to 10 years in prison for attacking and kidnapping his co-worker outside her house earlier this year.

Aaron Michael Sparks, 33, was sentenced Thursday to a little more than four and a half years in prison for the attack. It was the minimum amount of time that could be imposed by Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell.

A sentencing review board will evaluate Sparks in prison to determine if he should be released after the minimum sentence is served, said Deputy Prosecutor Terry Bloor. If Sparks fails to participate in or respond to treatment, he could serve up to 10 years.

Sparks pleaded guilty on Sept. 5 to an amended charge of attempted first-degree kidnapping with sexual motivation. He was originally charged with first-degree kidnapping and attempted first-degree rape for the January incident.

Sparks received a significant reduction in the amount of prison time he was facing after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors, according to court documents. Prosecutors recommended the minimum sentence.

On Jan. 2, Sparks hid outside of the woman's house wearing gloves and a ski mask, documents said. He worked with the woman, now 32 years old, at a Tri-City fast food restaurant.

When the woman left the house around 4:20 a.m., Sparks forced her into his car, tried to sexually assault her and used a stun gun on her, and threatened to kill and rape her, documents said.

The woman screamed and was able to set off her car alarm, which alerted her father inside the house, documents said. When he came outside, Sparks used the stun gun on him and drove away.

The woman's boyfriend saw Sparks leave in a red Toyota and followed the car to a Richland address, documents said. The victim also saw Sparks leave in the car and recognized his voice and haircut.

Sparks went to work for a few hours following the attack, documents said. He then went home and tried to commit suicide by cutting his wrists and throat several times. When he failed to kill himself, he drove to Missoula, Mont., and went to a hospital.

Montana police took Sparks into custody the day after the attack once Richland police issued an arrest warrant, documents said. He was eventually extradited back to Washington, where he admitted to police he planned the attack.

Sparks told police he followed the woman home to find out where she lived, and bought the mask, gloves, a set of handcuffs and the stun gun online, documents said.

He also told police he was having fantasies about the victim in months prior to the attack.

"Part of Mr. Sparks' self-admitted fantasy was that the victim might recognize him during the attack and consent to his desired actions," wrote Niki Bruner, a community corrections officer, in a pre-sentencing investigation report.

The report went on to say, "Due to Mr. Sparks' severe depression, he indicated he just wanted to hold or be held by the victim."

A Spokane doctor diagnosed Sparks with Major Depressive Disorder and Schizotypal Personality Disorder during a psychological evaluation, documents said. The doctor determined Sparks had diminished capacity to control his behavior during the attack.

Sparks' attorney, John Jensen, said during the sentencing hearing on Thursday that the death of a cat his client had for 20 years sent him into a downward spiral.

The cat, whose name was Catty, died in August 2012, documents said. Sparks sank into a deep depression and wanted "somebody to love him." The victim consoled Sparks at work when he told her about the cat and he started to have feelings for her.

In a suicide note Richland police found taped to Sparks' toilet, Sparks wrote that he didn't want to live anymore because his pet was no longer alive.

"I don't want to go on without Catty," he wrote. "I miss her too much, every day is hell without her so I'm ending my life in hopes that I will be with her again. Please bury us together."

Police also found a miniature casket with a picture of the cat and a handwritten death certificate when they searched Sparks' apartment, documents said.

Bloor dismissed Jensen's claims that the cat's death may have caused Sparks to attack the woman.

The victim feared for her life when she was attacked and asked that Sparks receive the maximum sentence, documents said. She has nightmares and has had to change parts of her life to cope.

"Of the many victims this community corrections officer has worked with, the traumatic impact that (the victim) has experienced and continues to experience stands out as one of the most serious," Bruner wrote in the sentencing report.

The victim did not speak at Thursday's hearing, though she wrote in a letter to the court that she is constantly afraid for her safety after the attack.

"I am conscious that it was a miracle that I am writing this letter because if my father wouldn't have come out to see that I was in danger I know I wouldn't be alive," she wrote.

Sparks spoke briefly at the hearing and apologized to the victim and everyone affected by the incident.

"I am just sorry for all the problems I have caused everyone and the pain and anger I have caused everyone," he said.

A no-contact order between Sparks and the victim was issued for 10 years. Sparks will not be allowed to possess any X-rated material or items used to restrain people once he is released.

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556;; Twitter; @Ty_richardson

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