It was a second marriage for both Donna Lou Young and Henry V. Rayhons, after their long-time spouses passed. In their 70s, they were, by the account of Bryan Gruley at Bloomberg, a most loving couple.
For the next six-and-a-half years, Henry and Donna Rayhons were inseparable. She sat near him in the state House chamber while he worked as a Republican legislator. He helped with her beekeeping. She rode alongside him in a combine as he harvested corn and soybeans on his 700 acres in northern Iowa. They sang in the choir at Sunday Mass.
“We just loved being together,” Henry Rayhons says.
Henry Rayhons is awaiting trial for the rape of his wife.
The Iowa Attorney General’s office says Rayhons had intercourse with his wife when she lacked the mental capacity to consent because she had Alzheimer’s. She died on Aug. 8, four days short of her 79th birthday, of complications from the disease. One week later, Rayhons, 78, was arrested. He pleaded not guilty.
As happens with older folks, Donna Rayhons developed dementia from her Alzheimer’s. Even without Alzheimer’s, dementia to some greater or lesser degree strikes a lot of people about that time of life. It is not uncommon.
Donna’s daughters felt that Henry was incapable of properly caring for her, and, as the children of the elderly often do, decided to take charge of their parent’s situation.
By early this year, two of Donna Rayhons’ daughters were concerned about their mother’s worsening dementia and the way Rayhons was caring for her. Linda Dunshee, 54, and Suzan Brunes, 52, had heard from a legislator, a lobbyist and other people working in the Capitol that he sometimes left her alone while he was in meetings. They worried she’d wander the hallways or outside on her own, according to their statements to investigators and other court documents.
Brunes, a hospital administrator, and Dunshee, executive director of a non-profit serving people with intellectual disabilities, had talked to Rayhons about putting their mother in a nursing home. He had resisted.
So one day when Henry wasn’t there, the daughters whisked their mother away to a nursing home. This was probably warranted, and an extremely difficult decision under the best of circumstances. That Henry resisted, didn’t believe it was necessary or that he couldn’t care for his beloved wife, isn’t uncommon either. There is no flashing light over an old person’s head that proclaims her time is almost up, and the desire to live an independent life for as long as possible is strong.
Still, Henry did as much as he could to maintain his relationship with the wife he loved, even in the nursing home.
Donna had a room to herself where one afternoon a nurse opened the door to find her in bed and Rayhons kneeling in prayer. Brink later told a state investigator that the two held hands and “Henry was more affectionate with Donna than most people were,” an interview summary said.
Because the legislature was in session, Rayhons awoke many days at 5 a.m. so he could see Donna before driving two hours to Des Moines. When the House finished for the day, he drove back to have dinner with her, say a Rosary, and kiss her goodnight, he said.
It’s remarkably sweet, and yet not sweet enough.
There was increasing friction between Rayhons and Donna’s daughters, Brunes and Dunshee. Rayhons pushed for taking his wife out on outings, which the daughters thought agitated their mother, and made derogatory remarks to Donna about the daughters and Concord Care, according to the daughters’ log. Rayhons says now that Donna became upset because he couldn’t be with her all the time.
While Henry and Donna no longer shared the same roof, they did, apparently, share the same bed.
Brunes and Dunshee also were increasingly concerned that their mother was having sex with Rayhons when she lacked the capacity to knowingly consent, according to interviews with investigators and other documents. The daughters’ log says a nurse told the women that on a number of occasions, Donna was wearing nothing but a robe after a visit from Rayhons, and that staffers “felt sickened by what he was doing to her.”
Brunes told a state investigator that her mother said Rayhons wanted sex one to two times daily, and that Donna once pointed at her crotch and said, “Henry likes this a lot.” Rayhons later told the investigator that his wife enjoyed sex whenever they had it.
After a physician checked off a box that Donna was not competent to consent to sexual activity, and Henry had sex with this wife, the daughter, Dunshee, called police and accused Henry of rape. After learning of the accusation, Henry’s visits to his wife were subject to his daughter’s approval.
Rayhons saw his wife for the last time on Aug. 7. It was only the second time he’d been allowed to see her for several weeks. He and son Gary made the 45-minute drive to Hampton, Iowa, where Donna had been moved to an ABCM facility with an Alzheimer’s unit.
Dunshee and Brunes were with their mother. She was incommunicative. Rayhons knelt by her bed and prayed the Rosary. Gary said his father held Donna’s hand and said, “Love you, Honey.”
She died the next day.
Three days after Donna Rayhons funeral, Henry was arrested for the rape of his wife, for having sex with her when she was incompetent to consent.
“Any partner in a marriage has the right to say no,” said Katherine C. Pearson, who teaches and writes about elder law at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law and reviewed the Rayhons case at the request of Bloomberg News. “What we haven’t completely understood is, as in this case, at what point in dementia do you lose the right to say yes?”
As it turns out, the application of law that seems so wonderful given the anecdotes offered in support of it may lose a bit of its luster when applied to those situations its advocates never thought about. There aren’t separate definitions of rape for college women and geriatric women. Bet you never thought of that.
H/T Walter Olson at Overlawyered