Boy Wonder

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

Often, if parents seek appropriate counseling, such cases never even reach juvenile court. But the Wuthriches wouldn't sign paperwork so that Raoul could be taken to a therapist. Andreas explained that his son was not going to admit to having done anything wrong. "He's innocent," he told the press. From Switzerland, the Wuthriches refused to supply authorities with Raoul's birth certificate. (Prosecutors eventually added a charge of sexual assault against a child because they were unsure of Raoul's biological connection to the girl and didn't want to risk having the incest case thrown out on a technicality if defense attorneys proved the two children weren't related by blood.) And according to Pam Russell, at the same time as they were complaining that Raoul was being held in jail, the Wuthriches at first refused to hand over his immunization records, which were necessary to transfer him from Mount View to a foster home. Social services eventually got the records by another means, but then found it difficult to find a foster home that would take in a "fire-starter." After seven weeks at the detention center, Raoul was finally placed, but the foster parents soon requested that social services find him another home because he was abusive to the animals in their home.

The Wuthriches told the media that they had left the country because they feared their daughters would also be taken and that they might be arrested. The DA's office countered that it had no intention of arresting the Wuthriches or removing their girls once Raoul was out of the home. The authorities wondered what the Wuthriches were really afraid of. The investigators had been hearing allegations that the couple watched pornographic videos in the presence of their children; they had also come across a Web business the Wuthriches had named "Ultimate Fantasies" and registered with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office in July.

And as the European media swarmed into Colorado, there wasn't much Russell and Hooper could say to counter what they considered the press's one-sided job. Concerned about making any statements that might be cited as prejudicial and constrained by ethical rules against offering opinions and privacy laws regarding juvenile matters, the Jeffco DA's response was limited. An October 20 press release was a fairly generic explanation of the process, though it did contain jabs at the Wuthriches for those who knew to read between the lines. For example, the release noted that there are alternatives to the detention facility for juveniles accused of criminal behavior but that they "require the cooperation of the parents." And for those in the press passing off Raoul's actions as child's play, the DA's office noted that "normal childhood behavior is distinguishable from criminal sexual behavior requiring intervention."

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.

But other than that, those in the district attorney's office could discuss only what came out in a series of courtroom hearings -- though some of that testimony was obviously intended for the press. In what sometimes seemed more of an effort to paint a fuller picture of the case for the public than to gain any headway in the courtroom, Deputy District Attorney Hal Sargent managed to slip in general comments about Raoul's fire-setting and animal abuse and about how there were witnesses who claimed the children had been exposed to pornography. The defense attorneys objected to Sargent's assertions and were often sustained, first by the magistrate and then by Judge Zimmerman -- but the information became part of the court record and reported by the press.

Laura Mehmert testified about what she had seen, saying that Raoul's actions were "sexual in nature." (She, too, had been hounded by the media, who camped out on her doorstep and trained their cameras on her windows day and night. She received dozens of letters accusing her of being a busybody, some from men and women who said children should be allowed to explore their sexuality with one another.)

Dan Jarboe testified that the girl said her half-brother had touched and kissed her inappropriately and that she "didn't like what he was doing." But defense attorney Wegher argued that the girl had been confused by the process and had also given answers that did not make any sense. He tried to have Jarboe's testimony stricken, saying his interview with the girl was a privileged conversation and couldn't be repeated without her permission. The judge overruled that objection and also denied the defense motion to have the case dismissed. In fact, Zimmerman said the prosecution had provided enough evidence to warrant the charges and a trial.

And the investigation continued to reveal more about the Wuthriches. The local press reported on Beverly's conviction for child neglect; her attorney, Vincent Todd, countered that she had agreed to plead guilty, pay the fine and attend parenting classes to avoid a "costly trial." The admission that Beverly and Andreas were first cousins didn't help their public-relations efforts, and the PR bandwagon really threw a wheel after the Denver Post reported that unnamed Jeffco authorities were calling "Ultimate Fantasies" an adult-video production company run out of the Wuthrich home.

Beverly appeared on NBC's Today program and denied having any involvement with adult-video production -- but a young woman in California saw the show and called the district attorney's office. For one thing, she contended, when she had met Beverly approximately seven years earlier, Beverly was working for an "escort service" in Denver.

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