Threat-to-kill charges against Pasco man dropped. Now ex-wife under investigation.

Tri-City Herald

A Pasco man’s case for threatening to kill his ex-wife was dismissed after investigators found evidence that she sent the text messages to herself.

The attorney for Paul M. Gillum said even though the criminal charges were dropped in Benton County Superior Court, his client did not get justice.

“It worked out in the end for him, but what happened to him was not fair in any way shape or form,” lawyer Kevin Holt told the Tri-City Herald. “It was devastating to my client. It almost cost him his job. He went to jail. It cost him his reputation in the community. We’re just thankful that occasionally liars get caught.”

Gillum’s ex-wife, Christine Gillum, has not been charged.

But Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra said the woman is being investigated, though she would not say what type of charges the woman could face.

Christine Gillum did several things during the case that raised red flags for Benton County sheriff’s deputies and Richland police, Petra said.

As a result, they followed their instincts and discovered a store surveillance video showing her buying a throwaway phone that ultimately was linked to the threatening text messages, Petra said.

“The state firmly believed, and still believes, that there was probable cause in this matter (against Paul Gillum) with the evidence that was available to them at the time” the charges were filed, Petra said Monday.

“As of now, the state believes it would be very difficult to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt because of the credibility issues involving Ms. Gillum.”

Paul Gillum, 45, had been charged with second-degree rape, second-degree assault with domestic violence and felony harassment with domestic violence.

Holt described the probable cause affidavit filed against his client in November as scathing.

He acknowledged that prosecutors may have been justified in charging Gillum based on the initial evidence, but added that law enforcement didn’t want to believe Gillum or do any more investigating on the case until the defense persisted.

Gillum works for a Tri-City towing company and was in the Army for more than two decades, said Holt, who took the case for free.

Holt said while charging Christine Gillum may have a chilling effect on sexual assault or abuse victims who are often anxious about coming forward, she should not get away with it if investigators have evidence that she made up serious allegations against her ex.

In the meantime, the attorney will try to get all civil protection orders removed so Paul Gillum can see his kids. He said they’re also considering filing a lawsuit against Christine Gillum.

Christine Gillum first contacted deputies on Nov. 11, alleging her ex had sexually assaulted her twice, beat and choked her and sent obscenity-laced messages about plans to squeeze the life out of her and being in control. The messages also mentioned previous alleged attacks.

She had bruising on her body that prosecutors said was consistent with the allegations, and she got physically ill while describing the abuse for investigators. She said she had moved out of her home so her ex could not find her.

In a follow-up interview, investigators asked for her phone to preserve the text messages. Gillum said she would bring it to the sheriff’s office, but didn’t come in until four days later after being called repeatedly, Petra wrote in the dismissal order.

Paul Gillum initially was locked up on $250,000 bail. It was reduced to $100,000 and he was freed from custody after his father helped post bond.

But he was back behind bars days later when his ex-wife reported Gillum had sent her new text messages and left voicemails. Petra wrote that based on the content of the messages, it appeared they were from Gillum, even though they were coming from a different number than before.

However, Petra said it soon was clear that “things just weren’t lining up,” and it became a joint investigation with Richland and Benton County doing “good old-fashioned police work.” She released Gillum during the 72-hour-hold period and opted not to file an additional harassment charge.

Officers connected the most recent phone number to a T-Mobile Alcatel brand burner phone with no registered owner. It was activated Nov. 28 — the same day Christine Gillum alleged her ex started harassing her again, and just a half hour after she bought the same type of phone and a $40 prepaid card at Walmart, the dismissal order said.

Surveillance footage allegedly shows her buying those items with cash, then going back into the store to pick up other goods with her debit card. Officers got a copy of the receipt which shows the phone’s identifying serial numbers.

Meanwhile, investigators began the forensic examination on Christine Gillum’s phone for the initial messages, and found she had deleted a lot of the content before handing it over, the court document said. Police recovered a texting application that is capable of sending and receiving messages.

Investigators, working with T-Mobile, confirmed the second round of messages came from the number on the phone that she was seen buying. When questioned about a burner phone, she initially denied ever buying a throwaway, then said she bought one for her son but turned over a different phone, the document said.

Petra said it took a few months to finally dismiss Paul Gillum’s case because they were waiting for subpoenas with the phone company to verify the evidence.

“We had the video, which was extremely incriminating, but we needed to get further documentation just to confirm,” she said.

The initial messages, which came from a different number, reportedly have not yet been linked to a person.

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531, @KristinMKraemer