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MADISON - Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen hailed today's Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that three men can be prosecuted under Wisconsin's sexual assault law for attempting to disinter and have sexual intercourse with the body of a dead woman. Adopting arguments advanced by Van Hollen and Department of Justice lawyers, the supreme court ruled that Wisconsin's sexual assault law - which provides that it "applies whether a victim is dead or alive at the time of the sexual contact or sexual intercourse" - criminalizes the sexual assault of any victim who is dead at the time of the assault, and is not limited to only those cases where the defendant also caused the victim's death.
"Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault, whether the victim is dead or alive," Van Hollen said. "That's what the statute says, that's what we argued, and that's what today's decision reinforces. Words matter, and the legislature chose its words carefully to extend the sexual assault law to those heinous circumstances where a dead person is sexually assaulted, whether or not the defendant killed the victim. Necrophilia is criminal in Wisconsin."
As alleged in the criminal complaint, the three defendants, Alexander Caleb Grunke, Nicholas Owen Grunke, and Dustin Blake Radke, were arrested and charged with attempted third-degree sexual assault. The defendants went to a Cassville, Wisconsin cemetery with the plan of digging up the body so that one of the defendants, Nicholas, could have sexual intercourse with the dead victim. Nicholas conceived of the plan after seeing the obituary of the victim in the newspaper. The men brought to the cemetery shovels, a crowbar, and a box of condoms, all purchased that evening. They dug to the victim's vault, but were interrupted. They fled, but were discovered by a Village of Cassville police officer responding to reports of a suspicious vehicle in the cemetery.
The Grant County Circuit Court dismissed the charges after agreeing with the defendants that the sexual assault did not apply to the assault of a dead person unless the defendant had also caused the death of the victim. The State appealed, and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the charges.
Van Hollen then appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The state's highest court reversed the court of appeals' decision today and ruled that the 1986 legislation had clearly provided that the sexual assault law "criminalizes sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a victim already dead at the time of sexual activity [even] when the accused did not cause the death of the victim."
As a result of the supreme court's decision, the case against the three defendants will be returned to Grant County Circuit Court for prosecution of the attempted sexual assault charges. The defendants have not yet been tried for the sexual assault and are presumed innocent. The State bears the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
"We are pleased that the plain meaning of the statute has been upheld and that the long-delayed prosecution of these defendants can proceed," said Attorney General Van Hollen.
The supreme court's opinion in State v. Radke, State v. Alexander Grunke, and State v. Nicholas Grunke is available at http://www.wicourts.gov/sc/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=33332.
Assistant District Attorney Anthony J. Pozorski, Sr., has prosecuted the case in Grant County Circuit Court. The Department of Justice represented the state in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. The case was handled on appeal by Assistant Attorney General William L. Gansner.