Boy Wonder

The little blond boy looked out the window of the United Airlines jet as it left Denver. Raoul Wuthrich had just turned eleven in the Jefferson County juvenile detention center, where he'd been placed for sexually assaulting his five-year-old sister, but now he was free to go.

"Bye-bye Denver, I never want to see you again," he said as a reporter for the daily Swiss newspaper Blick sat next to him taking notes. "Finally, I feel good. I won't be in court anymore where there are many evil people."

Soon he would see his mommy and daddy, who had left him behind after he'd been arrested in August, and his sisters -- including the one who had told on him. But he wouldn't have to see the "evil people" again. Like the lady next door who used to let him play with her dogs, but then said she saw him in his backyard kissing his sister's "privates." Like the deputy who took him from his bed in the middle of the night. Like the people who said he was cruel to animals. Or the man who asked him about the fires.

It was goodbye and good riddance. He was going home to Switzerland. To mommy and daddy...and his little sisters.

Laura Mehmert was disappointed with Judge James Zimmerman's decision to let Raoul go. She worries about what will happen to his little sister. But her life has been hell since she went to the authorities with what she saw on May 25, 1999, and if the Swiss want Raoul, they're welcome to him.

The Wuthrich family had moved to Evergreen and into the house behind Mehmert's in May 1998. The very first day, Mehmert, whose two sons were in their twenties and out of the house, knew the kid was going to be a handful. That evening, deputies came over to the chain-link fence that separated her yard from the Wuthriches', asking if she had seen a little blond-haired, blue-eyed boy. He'd wandered off sometime that morning, but the boy's mother hadn't worried and called the deputies until dark.

They found the boy playing in a house that was under construction. The incident didn't stop the children -- an eleven-year-old girl and nine-year-old Raoul from Beverly Wuthrich's first marriage and a four-year-old girl and a two-year-old girl from her current marriage to Andreas Wuthrich -- from freely wandering around the neighborhood. They often ended up over at Mehmert's house, which caused the Wuthriches' first run-in with the law regarding their kids.

Exactly one year before Mehmert saw Raoul pull down his sister's pants, Beverly Wuthrich was reported to Jefferson County authorities by the Mehmerts' dogsitter. The Mehmerts were on vacation when the young woman arrived at their house to find the two-year-old Wuthrich child climbing on the Mehmerts' front-porch railing, eight feet above the ground, while the four-year-old pushed on the front door. Inside was the Mehmerts' rottweiler mix -- a dog that was fine with children as long as they were with an adult who invited them in, but that would have enjoyed a child snack if the girl had managed to open the unlocked door. The dogsitter took the children home and called the police. Beverly was charged with misdemeanor child neglect for placing her daughters in a "situation which posed a threat of injury." She pleaded guilty and was fined $78 and ordered to attend parenting classes; if there were no other problems, the incident wouldn't go on her record.

Mehmert noticed plenty of odd behavior at the Wuthriches'. She went over to visit a few times and noticed that the family seemed to be living out of boxes. There was no art on the walls, and from what Mehmert could tell, their furniture consisted of a couch in the living room, a built-in dining-room table with chairs, and beds in the bedrooms. But it wasn't the lack of decor that bothered Mehmert, she says. It was the kids.

Raoul was a regular Dennis the Menace. Once Mehmert caught him hitting golf balls dangerously close to her windows. When Mehmert talked to his mother about Raoul's hijinks, Beverly Wuthrich blamed it on attention deficit disorder.

In July of that first summer, Raoul was in Mehmert's yard playing with her dogs when, Mehmert says, she noticed a large burn on his upper thigh. The angry-looking wound was four inches square. When she asked what had happened, Raoul mumbled something but didn't seem to want to talk about it. Mehmert says she went into the house and brought back lotion to take the sting out of the burn.

She took some Popsicles next door for the children, hoping to talk to Beverly about the burn. "She said he backed into an iron," says Mehmert. "I said, 'Oh, really?' But I thought that was an odd place on his body to have 'backed into an iron.'"

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Steve Jackson

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