The newspaper photo shows a long-haired, disheveled man attempting to hold his handcuffed hands in front of his face.

It was January 1973 in Bellingham, Wash., and 23-year-old Paul Dalton had just been arrested for abducting an elderly woman from her home at gunpoint and holding her for $15,000 ransom for several hours before he was nabbed by police.

The 31-year-old crime came to light during the first-degree theft case against Dalton that was resolved Thursday, when Clatsop County Circuit Judge Paula Brownhill sentenced the Astoria man to 13 months in prison and required him to pay back almost $60,000 to the estate of Anna Washer.

Dalton served about three years of a life sentence in prison in Washington for the kidnapping. Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis presented newspaper articles about the crime to Brownhill Thursday as he asked the judge to impose a harsher sentence against Dalton than recommended in state guidelines.

According to an account of the crime in the Bellingham Herald newspaper, the bizarre drama began at about 9 a.m. the morning of Jan. 25, 1973, when Dalton appeared at the door of the Bellingham home of 67-year-old Varian Hillyard, wearing a nylon stocking over his face and brandishing a pistol that was later found to be an air gun.

After ordering the woman to dress, he telephoned her husband, Reg Hillyard, at his office and demanded that he bring $15,000 in cash to a drop-off point on an isolated road just south of the Canadian border. According to the Herald article, Hillyard said Dalton warned him not to contact police, and threatened that if he didn't follow the directions "my wife would be shot with a 12-gauge shotgun or a member of my family would be assassinated."

Dalton and his captive then drove in the woman's car to an isolated road outside the town of Sumas near the Canadian border, where he stopped the vehicle and led her into the woods. At about 5 p.m. Reg Hillyard, carrying a bag with the $15,000, drove to the location and met his wife and the kidnapper in the woods, where he handed over the money.

Dalton and Varian Hillyard then climbed into her car and drove off, but didn't get far before police, who had surrounded the drop-off area, threw up a road block, stopped the car and arrested Dalton without incident.

Hillyard was unharmed during the day-long ordeal.

Dalton pleaded guilty to first-degree kidnapping in Whatcom County Superior Court and was sentenced to life in prison. This being in the days before mandatory minimum sentences, the sentencing judge said he would recommend an early release if Dalton performed well in prison. He was released after three years.

At Thursday's hearing, Dalton's wife Lil Dalton told Brownhill that her husband was no longer the person who committed that kidnapping 31 years ago.

"He's not that man," she told Brownhill. "He's a loving, caring, sensitive, kind man."

- Tom Bennett


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