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Friday Harbor landlord charged with burglary and voyeurism

The San Juan County Sheriff’s office is seeking information from former tenants of Ryan H. Bennett, 44, of Friday Harbor, who has been charged with Residential Burglary with Sexual Motivation and Voyeurism in San Juan County Superior Court.

Detectives are interested in speaking with other tenants of Bennett’s. If you have information related to this matter, contact Detective Raymond Harvey by phone at 360-370-7028 or by email at rayh@sanjuanco.com, or Detective Lukas Peter by phone at 360-370-7625 or by email at lukasp@sanjuanco.com.

In the initial hearing on May 3, Bennett pleaded not guilty. An omnibus hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. on June 28. Bennett is represented by Robert C. Bulloch, according to court documents.

On the morning of April 28, a female tenant who was renting a basement apartment from Bennett reported she had found a digital audio and video recording device in her bedroom. She said she had paid $1,000 for the apartment. The apartment had no locking door between her’s and the upstairs apartment in which Bennett resides, but she was told she alone had access to the unit, according to the tenant.

In the probable cause statement, the tenant told the detective that she had numerous interactions with Bennett including him suggesting he needed a man to help her with a project she was working on in the backyard; contacting her in the shared laundry room while he wore only a robe; and asking if they go on a hike together, a request the tenant declined. Additionally, the tenant said Bennett would often speak to her as she was leaving or returning to her home from work. She also stated she would find packages she ordered sitting inside her apartment or on her bed.

The tenant said she was cleaning her apartment on April 27 when she found a black device taped to the carpet. She was unsure of what it was at first but later learned it was a recording device capable of recording both audio and video, according to the probable cause statement.

The detective wrote in his statement that he also discovered the device had recording capabilities and used internal memory storage as well as having Bluetooth and wifi capabilities for live viewing. On the device, the detective discovered several still images, videos and audio recordings. In the videos, the detective continued, Bennet can be seen looking at the device, carrying it downstairs, placing it and adjusting the lens to have a view of the tenant’s bed.

The timestamp on the first video was April 27, according to the probable cause statement, the same day the device was discovered. The video begins around 2:25 p.m. with Bennett’s face being recorded, the detective wrote. The last reported clip of Bennett occurs at 6:16 p.m., the tenant arrived home three minutes later. The tenant is then seen on the video cleaning her room until the device was discovered at 7:04 p.m.

At a May 10 hearing, Bennett’s counsel stated Bennett claims to have had security cameras at his other rental properties and has not had any previous complaints about them.

“It is reasonable to believe that the only reasonable explanation for placing a secret camera in the bedroom of another is for purposes of seeing that person in their most intimate state for purposes of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of another person,” the deputy wrote in the probable cause statement.

On April 30, the detective was granted a search warrant for Bennett’s house. When he arrived, Bennett did not comply, according to the detective. The detective and two deputies were able to gain entrance to Bennett’s house and placed I’m in handcuffs.

A search of the house uncovered evidence of “a major sexual fetish,” according to the probable cause statement. None of the items were illegal to possess alone, but suggested a sexually inappropriate intent by Bennett in secretly placing the camera, the detective wrote.

Additionally, several firearms — rifles and handguns — were discovered by the deputies. On May 3, Bennett was ordered by the court to surrender his weapons.