Robert Charles Hawley has been convicted of eight counts of child molestation, one count of sexual assault, three counts of contempt of court for attempting to contact the victims, and a special allegation beacause more than one victim was involved, the jury announced today. Hawley abused his three granddaughters for decades. He had pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Most recently, Jane Doe, the oldest of the three, had returned to his Santa Barbara home after years of being homeless. After moving in, the abuse began anew.
The case came together in part because of some quick-thinking local heroes. In 2016, a local woman called 9-1-1 after witnessing inappropriate touching between Hawley and Jane Doe at Ralphs. The woman assumed Doe was underage. Doe was not underage but law enforcement followed up with the call and located a prior 2009 report against Hawley alleging abuse by Hawley against his granddaughter Doe. Megan Harrison, the main detective working the case, worried that the Doe at Ralphs was the same Jane Doe alleging abuse against Hawley in 2009 — it was.
After years of not seeing her grandfather, Doe had reached out to him after being homeless for two years. “I went back because it had been nine years since, and I thought that he was just — I figured he would be too old and, like, too tired to be such a creep, and I didn’t have anywhere else to go,” said Doe. Doe was struggling with an eating disorder and alcoholism when she moved in.
Doe was the primary victim and was abused from the age of 6 until 16 and then again when she returned to live with her grandfather in 2016. The abuse growing up took place several times a week, said Doe. The grandfather babysat the girls, and as they got older, he requested to babysit them individually, reported District Attorney Ben Ladinig during the case’s closing argument.
Hawley has a history of predatory behavior. One woman flew out from Arkansas to testify about an incident with Hawley that she claimed was attempted rape. A former tenant of his in her early twenties also testified about an uncomfortable massage she got from a shirtless Hawley. In the 1990s, Hawley also pleaded no contest to allegedly masturbating at a local beach near a 14-year-old girl.
Hawley is facing several life sentences. His sentencing is scheduled for May 29.