In 1987, Ronald Lee Paulson was charged in Poulsbo, Washington, with five counts of first degree rape and two counts of indecent liberties involving the sexual assault of a child, the child's friend, and a babysitter. Paulson left Poulsbo, but was arrested three years later in California. While awaiting trial on rape charges, Paulson disappeared, and the case went cold.
Fast forward 26 years, and investigators in Poulsbo tracked Paulson to Shawnee, Oklahoma. Using social media and other websites, they found a picture of Warron Big Eagle, a Shawnee resident, on his employer's website and believed it could be their suspect.
Big Eagle had been living with his wife in Shawnee for nearly a decade. He was employed by a roofing contractor and was an active member of the community. His employer said, "We knew Warron as a retired pastor, and a person heavily involved in the Shawnee community serving on numerous boards."
In order to determine whether Big Eagle was, in fact, Paulson, investigators called the man to come to a Shawnee home to give an estimate on a roofing job. Pottawatomie County Undersheriff J.T. Palmer said that deputies could tell right away that the man's demeanor changed as soon as he saw uniformed officers. Palmer said the suspect "started shaking," and he confessed to being the fugitive rape suspect Ronald Lee Paulson.
Warron Big Eagle was booked into the Pottawatomie County Jail to await extradition to Washington County. His fingerprints matched those on record for Paulson.
Those who knew Big Eagle in Shawnee were shocked to learn that the man was a suspect in a child rape case wanted for nearly 30 years. However, the rape charge isn't the only startling thing on his criminal record. Paulson was housed in a juvenile correction facility for seven years--from the age of 14 until he was 21--for the shooting death of his adopted mother.
Investigators say Big Eagle was "hiding in plain sight." His wife, who fled Washington with him, has not been arrested.
Image credit: KOKH Fox 25