SACRAMENTO COUNTY (CBS13) — A decorated police officer spent 20 years behind bars, accused of sexually assaulting his Sacramento County children nearly 30 years ago, before his wrongful conviction was overturned with the help of those same children.
CBS13’s Ron Jones is getting answers as to why the children, now adults living in our area, say they were forced to accuse their father.
Ray Spencer had his kids with his first wife in the Sacramento area. He would divorce and marry his second wife and move to Washington State where his kids would visit him in the summer.
It’s there that Ray Spencer’s life would spiral out of control.
Time is a precious commodity. For parents, it can fade quickly, and before you know it, time with your children can vanish quickly.
Spencer knows about stolen time. Sentenced to 212 years over heinous accusations, he spent 20 years behind bars as his children grew up.
“I’ll never forgive them for what they did to my children,” he said.At the top of his career—the former Vancouver, Washington, motorcycle cop, SWAT team member, and later an undercover investigator who took down big-time drug dealers—his second marriage would hit rock bottom.
“I liked the ladies back then,” he admitted.
His infidelities would crash both of his marriages. His children, Matt and Katie, spent most of their time with their mother in Sacramento County, only spending summers with Spencer and his second wife Shirley, even as that marriage was unfolding.
“But I was a good father,” he said. “Those children were my life.”
But in 1984, there was a horrible accusation that would disrupt all of their lives.
According to documents obtained by CBS13 from the Clark County Sheriff’s Department in Washington, Shirley told Spencer his 5-year-old daughter had been sexually assaulted. He would get the investigative ball rolling in Washington and in Sacramento County.
“As a father, I was not going to ignore this,” he said.
A federal civil lawsuit filed by Spencer last year details the history of the case: Sacramento County investigators found no evidence of sexual assault of the kids—not even with a rape exam conducted at UC Davis Medical Center. Sacramento investigators would drop the case and that medical evidence would be shelved.
But that same document also says in Washington, lead investigator Sgt. Michael Davidson and Det. Sharon Krause refused to let the allegation go in Clark County and zeroed in on Spencer.
“It never occurred to me that in a month or two, I’d be the only suspect in this,” Spencer said.
Within weeks, investigators would file more disturbing charges, accusing Ray of also molesting his 8-year-old son Matt and Shirley’s 5-year-old son.
Spencer said the Washington detectives claimed they got air-tight confessions from his own kids.
“I said nothing happened, nothing happened, nothing happened, nothing happened, nothing happened the whole time,” he said.
His now-adult son Matt says he and his sister Katie Tetz, who now lives near Roseville, were told by their stepmother that that assaults did happen.
“Violent rapes, repeated rapes,” Katie Tetz said.
She says Sg.t Davison and her stepmother pressured her.
“I’m sitting on my mom’s lap and she says come on you can do it. And he says you can do it and you can go. You can leave. You can get out of here,” she said.
Wanting eight months of interrogation to stop, Matt says he finally broke and said his dad did what he was told happened.
“Really starts to overwhelm you and you can’t deal with it,” Matt said.
And with that, Spencer was sent to prison for nearly 20 years as his lawyers would work on appeals.
Years later a bombshell would drop—as adults, Matt and Katie say they learned from a 1996 court deposition by Det. Krause why they believe Shirley wanted Spencer out of the picture.
“Shirley was the one that was having an affair with the lead detective on the case,” Katie said.
CBS13 obtained that court deposition, where Krause testified that her boss Sgt. Davidson was having a romantic relationship with Ray’s ex-wife, Shirley, during the investigation.
Another document obtained by CBS13 from a Washington state inquiry by the governor’s office shows Sgt. Davidson left his wife and moved in with Shirley after Spencer was sent to prison.
Even with that news, it didn’t seem to matter. Given two life sentenced, Spencer was doomer.
“Many of the times at 3 in the morning, I sat in that cell wondering if my kids ever thought of me,” he said.
But in 2004, Washington Gov. Gary Locke reviewed the case and its disturbing issues and set Spencer free on a conditional commutation. He would still have to register as a sex offender and stay in Washington.
Matt, consumed with guilt in Sacramento County, would reconnect with his dad at a Washington airport.
“I felt I needed to go up there I need to talk to this man,” he said. “I need to look him in the eye and let him know I know nothing happened.”
Spencer didn’t hold a grudge against his son.
“I said, ‘Matt, you were a little boy you have nothing to be sorry for,’” he said.
For the next five years, Spencer’s defense team would look over the original case, resurrecting the medical exam, the affair, and evidence that the children’s testimony was coerced and went back to court.
In 2009, the Washington State Supreme Court, citing many disturbing issues in the case, overturned his conviction.
But that still wasn’t enough for Spencer, who would sue the detectives and the Clark County District Attorney’s office in civil court. In February, he won a $9 million verdict.
“It’s taken a lot of years to finally get this overturned, charges dropped, to win the federal civil rights case and having this burden I’ve had to carry for so many years,” he said.
Ray and His Wife Talk To CBS13 About Keeping Up Hope
None of the Clark County defendants or Spencer’s ex-wife Shirley would talk to CBS13.
Det. Krause is retired now and declined to talk about the attorney.
Sgt. Davidson’s attorney says his client may appeal the civil trial, saying the evidence presented was insufficient.
Spencer has yet to see one cent of the $9 million awarded to him in February, but he has something worth even more—time with his son and daughter.