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Wooden train at center of Metolius controversy destroyed, taken to landfill

(Update: Undersheriff confirms train broken into pieces, dumped at landfill)

METOLIUS, Ore., (KTVZ) -- A wooden train set built by a convicted sex abuser that sparked controversy over city of Metolius plans to put it on display at City Hall has been dismantled and removed from the city, an official said Friday.

"The issue has been resolved," City Clerk and Code Enforcement official James Stratton told NewsChannel 21 Friday afternoon. "It's been dismantled and we no longer have it in the city limits."

Stratton declined further comment, but said the city council will discuss the matter further at its next meeting, expected to be held next week.

Jefferson County Undersheriff Marc Heckathorn confirmed in a Facebook post that the train "has been destroyed and is no more."

He said he went to the county landfill to photograph proof of its destruction, "but the remnants had already been transported away." A landfill employee said he saw city employees dump the train, already in pieces, and recognized it from Thursday's news coverage.

Cassandra Ruwaldt, victim of stepfather and convicted abuser Richard Pickett, told NewsChannel 21 on Friday she was told the train was bulldozed in the middle of the night and taken in multiple pieces to the landfill.

Earlier story:

The wooden train once displayed outside of Metolius City Hall has been at the center of controversy after a Madras woman said it was built by her stepfather, who went to prison for sexually abusing her.

Cassandra Ruwaldt, 29, said beginning at the age of 9, she was sexually abused by her stepfather, Richard Pickett, for nearly a decade. Ruwaldt said Pickett built wooden trains, and used the toy structures as an excuse to be alone with her in his woodshop, where he abused her.   

Pickett was convicted about a dozen years ago of sexually abusing Ruwaldt and pleaded guilty to charges related to child pornography and child sex abuse.

Ruwaldt said she was driving through Metolius with her husband when she drove by City Hall and saw the train displayed outside. She said she almost crashed, and immediately called her mother.

Ruwaldt said she was advised to reach out to the Metolius City Council.

Her husband, along with Jefferson County District Attorney Steve Leriche, attended a city council meeting in March, where Ruwaldt presented a statement. Ruwaldt said she was informed that the train would be removed and be returned the next day. She said she did notice the train was no longer in front of City Hall.

Ruwaldt said she'd felt the council was not very receptive at the meeting, so when council members tried to reach out, she did not respond. She said after they promised to remove the train, she just wanted to move on.

"I said, ' It's going to be removed -- it's done," Ruwaldt said Thursday. "I don't really care any more, I want it gone. Then we got notice that they actually changed their mind and had a vote to put it back up in front of City Hall and display it, despite what they had told us back in March."

NewsChannel 21 spoke Thursday with Metolius City Councilor Dan Dulaney, who said the council voted on July 6 to have the wooden train placed back in front of City Hall. He claimed Ruwaldt was notified about the meeting but did not show up.

Ruwaldt said she found out on Tuesday by email and a letter of the city council's decision to again display the train in front of City Hall.

"The mayor told me to look at it as a tragedy turned to something beautiful and to move past it," Ruwaldt said. "I don't think he quite understands what re-victimization is, and the trauma behind it. He said it is not the same train, since he repainted it and removed some of the boards and replaced them."

NewsChannel 21 reached out to Mayor Carl Elliot but was unable to reach him.

"The just don't get it," Ruwaldt said. "And for them to display it and prominently displayed in their city and City Hall, they are telling all the (abuse) victims or potential victims that if they come forward, that no one is going to hear you. And I want to make sure children are being heard."

Councilor Dulaney said the train represents the history of the city and the Oregon Trunk Railroad from back in the early 1900s.

Asked if he understands why Ruwaldt is so offended by the display of the train and how difficult it is for her to see the train when driving through town, Dulaney replied, "She doesn't have to come through Metolius to either go to work or go home. She can take (Highway) 97, if its such a damn bother to her."

The train is sitting a block away from City Hall on Washington Avenue, behind a tractor. It will soon be moved back in front of City Hall, but there is no set date as of yet.

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Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.


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