Boy Wonder

Raoul Wuthrich caught the Jeffco Juvenile Justice System with its pants down.

Five days later, Jeffco sheriff's investigator Acierno finally talked to Raoul after the boy and his father waived Raoul's Miranda rights. During the interview, Raoul claimed that he was only helping his sister urinate by pulling her pants down and holding her legs. He admitted that he told Mehmert he was helping his sister remove rocks from her underpants, but only because he was afraid that she would report his actions and he'd get in trouble. He denied touching his sister in a sexual manner and accused her of lying because "she likes to get me in trouble." It was eleven days later that Acierno talked to Mehmert.

Despite the evidence of possible sexual abuse determined by the interviews, over the summer the Jefferson County Department of Social Services made no move to initiate a D&N proceeding to remove Raoul or his sister from the home.

But the department requested a placement evaluation based on the therapist's concerns about other inappropriate "sexual contact" within the family, allegations of animal cruelty and the fact that Raoul had admitted to setting six fires, four in August alone.

James Bludworth
Seen of the crime: Laura Mehmert looks out her window at the former Wuthrich yard.
Brett Amole
Seen of the crime: Laura Mehmert looks out her window at the former Wuthrich yard.

Concerned about how well the Wuthriches would monitor inappropriate sexual contact between their children if they couldn't stop Raoul from setting fires, the evaluator recommended that Raoul be placed out of the home.

The Jefferson County Crimes Against Children Unit didn't receive Raoul's placement evaluation until August; prosecutors then decided to charge the boy with aggravated incest. Alarmed that no one had initiated a D&N proceeding -- and therefore no court order had been issued to protect the little girl -- they asked the sheriff's office to issue a "warrantless arrest." Unlike a search warrant, which must first be approved by a judge, a warrantless arrest is merely for the apprehension of an individual; it does not allow law enforcement to enter a building without consent to search for a suspect.

The warrant was issued for 3:30 p.m. on August 30. The idea was to find the boy after he got off the bus from school; however, Beverly Wuthrich picked up her son at school that day. A deputy called the home trying to make arrangements to pick up the boy later that afternoon but couldn't reach the Wuthriches. The deputy then went to the house at 10:30 p.m. and was allowed inside. He then found Raoul in bed, where he arrested him, handcuffed him and hauled him off to Mount View Juvenile Detention Facility.

The image of the cute little blond-haired, blue-eyed ten-year-old, his wrists bound by steel bracelets as he was marched away by a pistol-packing deputy, touched off a firestorm that would obscure what this case was really about: the alleged sexual molestation of a five-year-old girl by her ten-year-old half-brother.

Seven days after the arrest of their son, the Wuthriches fled the country for Switzerland. Andreas and Beverly went to the press to drum up international support for their son, explaining that they had left because they feared arrest and feared that their other children might be taken from them. The Jeffco DAs protested that there were no such intentions, but the media conflagration had already begun.

Soon the story of little Raoul was front-page news in Swiss and German newspapers, especially the tabloid Blick, which would collect 30,000 signatures in Switzerland (where children under the age of fourteen cannot be arrested), urging the boy's release. The paper even started a "Free Raoul" legal defense fund.

Taking their cue from Raoul's attorney, Arnold Wegher, and the parents' attorney, Vincent Todd, the European media presented the story that Raoul had only been trying to help his little sister go potty in the backyard when a busybody neighbor reported him; at worst, the boy's actions with his sister were nothing more than a little boy "playing doctor."

"The most disturbing [thing] in the Raoul Wuthrich case is the fact that Americans are surprised about the commotion the case caused in Europe," wrote Martin Killias, a professor of law and criminology at the University of Lausanne, in an editorial for one Swiss newspaper. "This shows how madness has become normal in the U.S....All suspects are treated equally, regardless whether they are dangerous or not. The fact that children are locked up in jails, and sometimes executed, is normal. A fair trial is important, but whether guilty or not is not important.

"The accused person must be able to prove whether another person could be the perpetrator because it is not up to the police to follow exonerating traces," he continued. "The practice of blackmailing accused people with the threat of extremely high sentences to force them to admit never-committed crimes to get lower sentences is also everyday life. This will happen in Raoul's case. The child and the family are destroyed because of a petty little matter."

The U.S. media wasn't far behind, with the Wuthriches appearing on Today and Geraldo and in newspapers from California to New York, tearfully proclaiming their son's innocence and damning the Jefferson County district attorney's and sheriff's offices. They said they had questioned their daughter "repeatedly" and that her story was consistent with Raoul's claim that he was only helping her go to the bathroom. (The Colorado media was more restrained. Reporters here had seen the arrest affidavit and other court documents and knew that there was more to this than a little boy helping his sister urinate or playing doctor -- unless he was specializing in gynecology.)

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