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Press Release

Kennewick Man and Woman Sentenced to Decades in Federal Prison for Child Abuse

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Washington

Richland, Washington – On January 4, 2023, United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke sentenced Bret Michael Emineth, age 41, to 30 years in federal prison for engaging in years-long sexual abuse of a minor victim and recording images depicting the abuse.  The Court also sentenced Emineth’s codefendant, Malesa Hale, age 37, to 28 years in federal prison for conspiring with Emineth to abuse the victim and record the abuse.  Judge Dimke also ordered both Emineth and Hale to pay restitution to the victim, and imposed a lifetime of federal supervision on both defendants upon their release from custody.  Emineth and Hale are each from the Tri-Cities.  Emineth, who began abusing the minor victim when the minor was only 12 years old, will also plead guilty to related charges in Benton County Superior Court.

“I simply cannot convey how horrendousness this behavior is,” Judge Dimke said from the bench, recognizing that Emineth and Hale had inflicted “harm that will last for a lifetime.”  Directly addressing the victim, Judge Dimke said: “You are brave.  You are strong.  You are courageous.  You saved others from the hell that you were subjected to,” by reporting to law enforcement. Judge Dimke specifically told the victim that if the victim had not come forward, there was no doubt that Emineth and Hale would have expanded their abuse to other children. 

According to court documents and proceedings, in June 2021 the victim reported to the Kennewick Police Department that Emineth had repeatedly sexually and physically abused the victim for approximately 4 years. The victim told detectives that the abuse had started with grooming and touching, and progressed to sexual intercourse.  In 2019, Emineth’s then-girlfriend, Hale, became suspicious of Emineth’s relationship with the victim.  When Hale confronted Emineth, he told her that he was abusing the victim.  Instead of reporting the abuse to law enforcement, Hale expressed interest and joined Emineth in sexually abusing the victim. 

KPD detectives found explicit text messages between Emineth and Hale discussing their sexual abuse of the victim and their plans for future sexual abuse of the victim and other children. The messages also included photos of the victim being abused, many of which Emineth had taken at Hale’s direction and sent to Hale.  KPD detectives then worked closely with Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) and the Southeast Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (“ICAC”) to perform full forensic examinations of the defendant’s cell phones, which revealed the extent of Emineth and Hale’s abusive conduct. 

“Emineth and Hale’s child abuse was egregious, and today’s significant sentences recognize the horrors that the victim endured.  But no sentence can return a child’s innocence,” said United States Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref.  “All children deserve to live free from those who seek to exploit them.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to prioritize offenses against our community’s youngest and most vulnerable victims. Today’s hearing sent one clear message to the victim, which is shared by each of the detectives, agents, and prosecutors who worked with you: we believe you.”

"This sentence is a testament to the resilience and confidence in law enforcement exhibited by the victim in this case," stated Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Robert Hammer, responsible for overseeing HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest. "The era of victimization has ended for this child, and HSI, along with our law enforcement collaborators, will tirelessly strive to prevent such exploitation from befalling anyone else."

“We express our gratitude to the detectives, witnesses, and the courageous child survivor for putting a stop to these horrific acts," stated Kennewick Police Chief Chris Guerrero. "We also extend our appreciation to the US Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations for collaborating with us to ensure accountability for those who victimize our children." 

"The collaborative partnership of the SER-ICAC Task Force, which unites our law enforcement counterparts from Richland PD, Kennewick PD, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in conjunction with the concerted efforts of the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office, has proven instrumental again in securing a successful plea deal with a substantial sentence," stated Commander Damon Jansen, Investigations Division with the Richland Police Department." Outcomes like this, marked by their severity, contribute significantly to the administration of justice for the children within our community who have endured egregious abuse yet have emerged as survivors." 

This case was investigated by the Kennewick Police Department (“KPD”), Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), and the Southeast Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (“ICAC”). The federal case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Laurel Holland and David Herzog, and the state case was prosecuted by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Anita Petra of the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office. 

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit


Robert Curry

Public Affairs Specialist

Updated January 5, 2024

Project Safe Childhood