Accused grave robbers dodge sex charges
Three men who dug up a young woman's corpse to have sex with it after seeing her obituary photo cannot be charged with attempted sexual assault because Wisconsin has no law against necrophilia, an appeals court ruled Thursday.
A judge was correct to dismiss the charges against twin brothers Nicholas and Alexander Grunke and Dustin Radke, all 21, because lawmakers never intended to criminalize sex with a corpse, the District 4 Court of Appeals said in a 3-0 ruling.
The three men went to a cemetery in Cassville in southwestern Wisconsin on Sept. 2 to remove the body of Laura Tennessen, 20, who had been killed the week before in a motorcycle crash.
The men used shovels to reach her grave. They abandoned their plan and were eventually arrested after a vehicle drove into the cemetery and reported suspicious behavior, authorities said.
They said the men had seen an obituary of Tennessen with her photo and wanted to dig up her body to have sexual intercourse. Such an act is known as necrophilia.
The men were charged with attempted third-degree sexual assault and misdemeanor attempted theft charges. But Grant County Circuit Judge George Curry dismissed the sexual assault charges in September, saying no Wisconsin law addressed necrophilia. Prosecutors appealed his ruling.
At issue is a provision in the sexual assault law saying criminal penalties apply "whether a victim is dead or alive at the time of the sexual contact or sexual intercourse."
The appeals court said the law was ambiguous but the most reasonable interpretation was that it does not ban necrophilia. Instead, the court said, the law was meant to make sure prosecutors could bring sexual assault charges in rape-murder cases in which the victim ends up dead.
Outrage over the case might soon change the law.
Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, introduced legislation Wednesday that would make having sex with a corpse a felony with punishment of up to 6 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The bill would levy the same penalties against anyone who intentionally disturbs a burial site or a buried human corpse.