By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
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Then, on May 25, Mehmert says, she was sitting in a room at the back of her house around 4 p.m. when she happened to look out the large picture window that faced the Wuthrich property. She saw Raoul and his five-year-old sister come around to the side yard. Facing the little girl on his knees, Raoul pulled her pants down to her ankles. Mehmert says her first thought was that maybe he was helping her "go potty." But then he pressed his face into her crotch "so far you couldn't have slipped a piece of paper between the two of them."
Raoul next stood up and walked around behind the little girl, who was bent over with her hands touching the ground, Mehmert says. He placed one hand on his sister's hip as he pressed his crotch against her buttocks. His other hand was hidden from Mehmert's view -- but Mehmert had seen enough. She ran out the back door, yelling, "What on earth are you doing?"
Raoul looked surprised, Mehmert says, as he turned toward her with his pants unzipped. "He said he was helping her get some rocks out of her underwear."
"I did not," the little girl told Mehmert, who noticed that she then pulled up her own pants (obviously, she'd been capable of pulling them down herself). "Did you have to go to the bathroom?" she asked the girl.
Mehmert says she ordered the boy to zip his pants. "I told him, 'This is way out of line, Raoul. You've got to know that this was wrong.'"
She says he just nodded without saying anything.
Mehmert didn't know what to do. It had been nearly a year since Raoul had told her about being grounded for kissing his sister's privates. "The little girl acted like this was just something she had to put up with. She wasn't crying, but she'd certainly seemed relieved when I showed up."
The children walked away as Mehmert turned and went back into her house to call Beverly Wuthrich. She told her what she'd witnessed, but Mehmert says Beverly simply said, "'Are you sure that's what you saw?' That was it, that was the whole response."
Mehmert thought the other woman would have been shocked. Instead, she just seemed concerned that someone had seen what happened.
Mehmert agonized for a week. She didn't want to call the police. These were her neighbors, and, she says, "I knew there would be waves." But she couldn't get past the fact that there were other children besides the two younger sisters in the house. "Raoul needed help. So did the little girl," she says, "and the mother seemed oblivious."
Finally, she called the Department of Human Services and told the screening caseworker what she'd seen. Later, however, the investigation would reveal that all the caseworker wrote down on her report was that the "reporting person" had seen the boy pull his sister's pants down and felt his actions were "predatory." She wrote nothing in the report about the boy pressing his face or his crotch into the girl's genital area.
About two weeks passed. Then Beverly Wuthrich came over, Mehmert says. "She left her children in the car and asked if she could come in and talk about Raoul. She asked me, 'What exactly did you see?' So I told her the whole story again. She said it was exactly what her daughter had told her. She had thought that maybe her daughter was just angry at her brother and trying to get him in trouble."
Mehmert says she urged her neighbor to get help for her children -- if not for Raoul's sake, then for the little girl's. "I told her that being molested was something that could haunt her daughter for the rest of her life. And that's when she told me she'd been molested by her stepbrother for five years when she was a girl. She said, 'And I turned out okay.'
"I couldn't believe it," Mehmert continues. "I asked, 'So this behavior is all right with you?' She said it wasn't all right. But then she stood up and said, 'Gotta go, the kids are in the car.' And she was gone."
Soon afterward, Mehmert got a call from social services field investigator Rhonda Miklic, who wanted to know if she would mind speaking to a sheriff's office investigator. Jeffco investigator Tom Acierno called the next day, and Mehmert told her story again.
Then it all seemed to go away, and everything went back to "normal" -- though that's not how Mehmert would describe it. All night, almost every night, the Wuthriches left on what appeared to be every light in the house, Mehmert says.
In August, she saw smoke coming from their yard. She knew daycare children were over there and decided to call Beverly, who hadn't spoken to her since the day she had come by to ask Mehmert what she had seen. Mehmert got the answering machine but says Beverly "called back twenty minutes later and said her oldest daughter had learned how to build fires at Girl Scout camp and had been instructing the other children."