Cambria man convicted of molestation gets 65 years to life in prison

Ronald John Cowan
Ronald John Cowan

A Cambria man who once suffered a traumatic brain injury was sentenced Monday to 65 years to life in prison for repeatedly molesting a boy after befriending the victim’s troubled family.

In July, a jury convicted Ronald John Cowan, 57, of five counts of felony child molestation. On Monday, Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy sentenced him to the maximum punishment.

According to court records, the crimes were reported in 2012 by a foster parent, who told authorities that the boy had described sleeping in Cowan’s bed. Further investigation revealed the boy was around 2 years old when the molestation began in 2010, and the abuse lasted two years.

In his interview with a probation officer, Cowan said he was confused by the accusations.

“I am a little overwhelmed by this,” he said, according to a report filed with San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

In a sentencing statement filed with the court, Deputy District Attorney Kelly Manderino wrote that the boy’s mother was addicted to drugs. Meanwhile, Cowan became a trusted grandfather-like figure to the boy and won the family’s trust with gifts and cash.

In turn, the family invited Cowan to holiday meals and entrusted him with their children.

“The defendant, it is clear, was sophisticated enough to build the trust of the family and take advantage of the family’s hardships,” Manderino wrote.

The molestation occurred at Cowan’s multi-level home in Cambria, which burned down in 2012.

Some of the crimes were “particularly brutal and traumatic,” Manderino wrote, causing the victim to be psychologically scarred. The boy now acts out in sexually explicit and violent ways, she wrote, destroying things and exposing himself to other children.

During the trial, she added, Cowan “exhibited an extreme attitude of callousness” during his testimony. When the now 6-year-old victim took the stand, she wrote, Cowan smiled and winked at the boy as he described how Cowan had sodomized him. “This exhibits the lack of remorsefulness the defendant has shown and continues to show in the face of these very serious crimes,” she wrote.

Cowan’s attorney, Jeffry Radding, could not be reached late Monday afternoon.

During his interviews with the probation department, Cowan denied molesting the boy, saying the boy had seen acts that he accused Cowan of doing while watching pornography with his grandfather.

Cowan was a journeyman electrician until he was hit by a car while riding a bicycle in the late 1990s. The brain injury he suffered in the accident, which forced him to retire and collect disability, made him sensitive to noise and caused anxiety, according to the probation report.

Noting that Cowan had not taken responsibility for his actions, the probation department recommended the maximum punishment, concluding, “His actions were pedophiliac and protection of the community should be a key sentencing element.”