Chaplain saw hope for Brames

New testimony yields details on marriage that ended in violence, scandal

December 19, 2005 

Once a torrent, the David Brame scandal now resembles a leaky faucet: the few facts unknown to the public trickle out now and then.

The latest come from midlevel figures in the scandal: Shelley Kerslake, former assistant city attorney, and William Bowlby, former chaplain of the Tacoma Police Department. Both knew Police Chief Brame, and spoke to him several times as his marriage and life crumbled in early 2003. Kerslake believes she did nothing wrong at the time. Bowlby, while admitting he felt Brame was “sexually addicted in a horrible way,” said he tried to help the chief save his marriage.

Kerslake and Bowlby recently gave depositions in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the family of Crystal Judson Brame, fatally shot by her husband April 26, 2003.

The family and the City of Tacoma reached a $12 million settlement agreement last fall. It includes the stipulation that depositions of witnesses will continue, though both sides understand a trial will not take place. The depositions of numerous figures in the scandal appear on the Web site of Paul Luvera, attorney for the Judson family. The full texts can be viewed at www.luveralawfirm.com.

Questions for Kerslake, posed by Luvera, revolved around her knowledge of a rape allegation against Brame dating to 1987. Kerslake’s knowledgement isn’t news – she admitted it shortly after the shootings, and said she and Brame shared it with then-City Manager Ray Corpuz in early 2001.

In her deposition, Kerslake added something new: Crystal Judson Brame knew of the rape allegation, and appeared in court proceedings with her husband in an effort to discount it.

The rape allegation emerged in a lawsuit against the city, filed in 1999 by Lt. Joseph Kirby. Kerslake had tried to quash questions about the subject, believing they were irrelevant to the case.

Crystal attended one of the mediation sessions, Kerslake said, adding that her husband requested it.

“He (David Brame) said that she (Crystal) was adamant that a message be sent back to Kirby and his lawyers,” Kerslake said. “That by raising this allegation it would not ruin their marriage, that it would not cause any trouble for her husband and her, and she thought that her presence would send that message.”

Kerslake, who cried briefly at one point in her deposition, added that David Brame told her about his wife’s allegations of domestic violence, and said they were false. Kerslake believed him. She said she did not investigate further.

“I do not believe that I had any obligation to tell (my superiors) about somebody’s personal life or personal divorce proceeding,” she said.

Bowlby’s deposition is the more revealing of the two. The chaplain, now living in Florida, admits meeting with Brame several times to discuss his failing marriage. He described the chief as sexually addicted. Bowlby sought assistance from another religious counselor experienced in the topic, and relayed advice to Brame.

He also describes a meeting with Brame and Crystal in late February 2003, two months before the shootings – but his memory of the encounter conflicts with an account in Crystal Brame’s diary.

In her diary, Crystal wrote that she told Bowlby about her husband’s efforts to pressure her into group sex, and added, “What does your God say about that?”

In his deposition, Bowlby said he never heard such statements from Crystal.

“I don’t recall any of that,” he said. “What I do recall is the fact that … she said over and over again, ‘He lies. He just lies all the time. He lies.’”

A moment later, Luvera asked Bowlby what he thought of Brame’s credibility.

“Well, let’s put it this way,” the chaplain replied. “His credibility was eroding fast.”

When the meeting ended, Bowlby said he saw cause for hope, and no indication of the violence to come.

“The night we met, they were not angry at each other,” he said, noting that they parted amicably. “She hugged him. He hugged her. It was an amazing thing. It was an amazing sight … they are looking like they really want to work things out.

“In my view it was a wonderful evening. Crystal was not angry. She was not upset. She was not belligerent. She was not antagonistic. She was very – very, very nice, very lovely.”

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