Prosecutors Weigh Whether to Pursue 1984 Child Abuse Charges

Prosecutors Weigh Whether to Pursue 1984 Child Abuse Charges

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Prosecutors are looking for more evidence before deciding whether to pursue child abuse charges from 1984 against a former Minnesota couple arrested last week in Utah.

"Right now, the police are still sorting out the facts. It's going to take some time when a case is this old to decide whether there is evidence to go forward," Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis for a story published Tuesday.

An extradition hearing for Edward and Karri LaBois is scheduled for Tuesday morning in Salt Lake County District Court. The district attorney's office there said it will request $10 (m) million bail.

The LaBoises are accused of abusing their daughter, who was 4 at the time. The couple's daughter, Aubree Riegel, now 23, now denies that the abuse ever happened.

That contradicts a key piece of evidence used to bring the charges in 1984: her videotaped statement as a 4-year-old to a psychiatrist about the alleged abuse in the family's home in Minnetonka.

Then Aubree told the psychiatrist that she and other children in her family's in-home day care played doctor with her parents and that it hurt her, according to a criminal complaint. She demonstrated the sex game using dolls and said that her father photographed the children naked.

Police later found nude pictures of children at the home.

The LaBoises, who deny the allegations, fled Minnesota when they learned in 1984 that their daughter would be removed from their home. They eventually settled in the Salt Lake City area, where they were arrested Nov. 10.

Karri LaBois, who said she will not oppose extradition, said in a jailhouse interview Monday that she had explained sexual anatomy to her daughter when she was young because there also were boys in the day care.

"We don't know how she came up with that," she said of the account in the complaint attributed to Riegel.

Legal experts echoed the prosecutor's caution about the case.

Robert Oliphant, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, said, "It's going to be a very difficult case to prove, given that the parents and the alleged victim say that no crime occurred."

Several defense attorneys said they agree.

With Aubree now denying that she was abused, and if there's no physical evidence, "that person is probably telling the truth, and you (the prosecutor) have a very tough case," said attorney Joe Friedberg.

Kevin Short, a defense attorney who is a former prosecutor, said the case is not prosecutable as long as the victim claims it didn't happen.

All three also said the daughter's videotaped statement and how it was taken will be closely scrutinized if the case goes forward.

"A defense attorney will certainly have experts taking a very careful look at all the circumstances of handling the 4-year-old ... They would look at what questions were asked, and how they were asked," Oliphant said.

"Without finding other victims, on the surface this would appear to be a very weak case," he said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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