This will be an archive of heinous actions by those involved in child welfare, foster care and adoption. We forewarn you that these are deeply disturbing stories that may involve sex abuse, murder, kidnapping and other horrendous actions.
From Aberdeen, South Dakota, foster father of Native American girl, Richard Mette, 53, pleaded guilty to rape of a child younger than 10 on March 26, 2012 when 23 felony counts were lodged against him for incest and sexual abuse of two of a sibling set of four sisters placed with his wife Gwendolyn /”Wendy” and him . He pled guilty to avoid a trial in which he could have received life in prison and a $50,000 fine. The plea deal was to agree to a sentence of 15 years in prison. The other 22 charges involving offenses alleged to have occurred between 2003 and 2010 were dropped. This sentence was given on Tuesday May 29, 2012.
The foster daughter, who was the subject of the plea deal, was assaulted in his home in 2004 and 2005 when she was 8 and 9 years old.
The media reports do not share that the girl was a Native American foster child. This is only revealed by the Lakota People’s Law Project.
Wendy was charged with 11 felony counts of aiding and abetting his crimes, and with neglect of the children. Those charges were all dropped in April 2012. Aberdeen American News in April says ” The Mettes were recently divorced.
Moore said the charges against Richard Mette differed from those against Wendy Mette in that the allegations against him were made in October 2010 after the victims were properly interviewed by law enforcers, but before Brandon Taliaferro, Shirley Schwab and Fran Sippel got involved in the case.
Taliaferro was fired in September after working for three years as a deputy state’s attorney handling juvenile crime and abuse and neglect cases. Schwab has been a longtime legal system advocate for juveniles and families. Sippel is a psychologist.
A decision about whether charges will be filed against the three Aberdeen residents will be announced by Moore in less than a week. Moore oversaw the investigation, which started in November, as well as Richard Mette’s prosecution.
According to testimony at a previous court hearing, the witness tampering investigation has to do with as sexual abuse victim being pressured to change her story. The changed story could have led to charges against Wendy Mette, according to the testimony.”
The Lakota People’s Justice Project Press Release says that the witness tampering charges were brought forth by “Attorney General Jackley …in November 2011 within days of Peabody-award winning expose by Laura Sullivan (http://www.npr.org/2011/10/25/141672992/native-foster-care-lost-children-shattered-families ) revealing ongoing state violations of the rights of Native children. Attorney Taliaferro and Mrs. Schwab were charged by the state with allegedly disclosing confidential case information and encouraging perjury by two Indian children against Richard and Gwendolyn Mette. (CR 10-11-13 and CR 11-274; Fifth Circuit Superior Court, Aberdeen, South Dakota.)” REFORM Talk coverage of this expose is here.
More Details on the “tampering”
The Lakota People’s Justice Project Special Report says in part “Mr. Taliaferro and Mrs. Schwab vehemently denied these accusations by Attorney General Jackley, immediately pleaded not-guilty to the charges, and retained both criminal defense counsel and private civil attorneys to prepare a federal civil rights lawsuit against Attorney General Jackley, Governor Daugaard and the State Department of Criminal Investigation agents, and D.S.S. officials who brought these false charges against them. Mr. Taliaferro and Mrs. Schwab assert that Attorney General Jackley, Governor Daugaard, and D.S.S. officials are engaged in a federal criminal conspiracy to systematically discriminate against Lakota children, mothers, fathers, grandparents and relatives, and to unlawfully retaliate against any non-Indian people who attempt to step up to defend the South Dakota Native American population against this illegal conspiracy.
Within days of South Dakota A.C.L.U. Director Robert Doody’s publicly announcing that he was ordering a state-wide A.C.L.U. investigation of these charges against D.S.S. officials, South Dakota D.S.S. officials took Mr. Doody’s Native American children away from him and his Native American wife. As of the May 1st indictments of Mr. Taliaferro and Mrs. Schwab, Mr. Doody’s children have still not been returned to him and his wife.
A public hearing has been scheduled for June 13th for Mr. Taliaferro and Mrs. Schwab.
According to Lakota People’s Law Project (LPLP) investigators, the charges against Mr. Taliaferro and Mrs. Schwab were filed because of their repeated attempts to protect and enforce the rights of four young Native American girls, ages 7, 9, 14 and 16, who were involuntarily removed from their Lakota mother by D.S.S. officials and placed with Richard and Gwendolyn Mette. Mr. Taliaferro conducted a professional investigation and concluded that Richard Mette had repeatedly sexually molested the two older girls, while Gwendolyn Mette threatened to punish the children if they told authorities. Repeated reports of Richard and Gwendolyn Mette’s conduct were conveyed to D.S.S. officials. However, the D.S.S. steadfastly refused to undertake any investigation of the Mettes. The four girls had originally been placed with the Mettes, a white couple, over the repeated objections of the girls’ adult sister, who had asked that the girls be placed with her, as is required by the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. In placing the Indian girls with the Mettes, the South Dakota D.S.S. violated section 1915 of the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act that mandates that all active efforts necessary be undertaken by state D.S.S. officials to place Indian children removed from their Native parents’ homes with their closest Indian relatives.
Mr. Taliaffero and Mrs. Schwab assert that South Dakota State Attorney General Jackley and his Department of Criminal Investigation operatives are actively coordinating with D.S.S. officials to use fabricated allegations of “unauthorized disclosure of confidential abuse and neglect information” and “witness tampering” to try to discredit the clear and convincing evidence that incriminates both Richard and Gwendolyn Mette of criminal conduct against the Indian children placed in their custody by the State D.S.S. These actions came immediately after the embarrassing National Public Radio expose of the decade-long pattern of unlawful conduct on the part of South Dakota State officials.
A special prosecutor assigned by Attorney General Jackley to prosecute the charges against Mr. Taliferro and Mrs. Schwab was later appointed by Attorney General Jackley to take over the prosecution of Richard and Gwendolyn Mette’s case. Investigators at the Lakota People’s Law Project (LPLP) have learned that South Dakota state prosecutors secretly offered to dismiss all of the serious felony charges against Gwendolyn Mette if she would go along with just one misdemeanor charge against Richard Mette, charging him with just a single spanking of one of the Indian girls, thereby allowing state officials to dismiss all of the Indian children’s serious charges of rape and incest against Richard and Gwendolyn Mette. This would have cleared the way for state officials to more effectively prosecute Mr. Taliaferro and Mrs. Schwab for allegedly encouraging the Indian children to make up charges against the Mettes, ostensibly to publicly embarrass the D.S.S.
Due, however, to the outrage of the girls’ Lakota family in response to this initially-attempted secret plea-bargain, the charges against Mr. Mette have now changed to a single charge of child rape. On March 27, 2012, Richard Mette pleaded guilty to this single count of rape of a child under 10 years old and will be given a15 year sentence, with parole after only 5 years. Richard and Gwendolyn Mette originally faced a total of 34 felony charges, most of which were aggravated rape of a child and aggravated incest, with each charge carrying a potential life sentence.”
Read the entire Special Report at the link below for all of the sordid details.
[Aberdeen American News 3/26/12 by Scott Waltman]
[Aberdeen American News 4/18/12 by Scott Waltman]
[Aberdeen American News 5/29/12 by Scott Waltman]
Lakota Peoples Law Project Released a Special Report on the Richard Mette case, a Non-Indian Foster Care Parent of Indian Girls in South Dakota, Convicted of Child Rape
[Lakota People’s Justice Project Special Report Press Release 6/4/12]
[Lakota People’s Justice Project Special Report 5/21/12]
REFORM Puzzle Pieces
Update: A new article discusses the sickening case of white foster parents Richard and Gwendolyn Mette.
“From 2001 to 2010, South Dakota covered up, and indeed was more than in part responsible for, in an accomplice capacity, the repeated sexual abuse of Native children under its authority. Further, incredible as it may seem, those within the state apparatus who tried to help or rescue these helpless children through official channels were prosecuted by the state and lost their jobs in the process.
In 1999, Richard and Gwendolyn Mette (Wendy in court records ) – a white couple in Aberdeen, S.D. – had five ( not seven as originally reported by other sources) Lakota children placed with them by DSS. The lurid narrative and timeline of sexual slavery began in 2001 when two male foster children complained to state authorities of “inappropriate touching” and physical abuse by Richard and Wendy Mette. DSS also found that pornography was being left in the open in the Mette home, in full view of all the children. Incredibly, DSS just required the Mettes to sign a contract promising to stop any further illegal behavior. That this was the only step taken is astounding.
Predictably, the Mettes did not cease their behavior. In 2007, six years later, DSS received another official referral regarding the couple. Investigating police were told by one of the female children that the foster father made her sit on his lap and sexually touched her. The child said she told the foster mother. No action was taken by the state. Again, DSS kept the children in the home, despite this illicit conduct.
In 2010, three years later, with more complaints from the children of physical abuse and sexual touching, an investigation was launched by Assistant State’s Attorney Brandon Taliaferro. The police, upon searching the Mette home, found “enough pornography to pack a store.” Much of the pornography was of incest and was entitled “Family Heat.” Police reports confirmed the earlier testimony of the children that the porn was in the open in every room of the home where all the children could see it.
Eventually, Richard Mette pled guilty to raping one of the female children, a child under 10 years old. Mette was originally charged with 23 felonies, of which the state dismissed 22. The children told authorities that the foster mother knew that her husband physically and sexually abused them. In fact, testimony given at the trial brought out that the foster mother, Wendy Mette, encouraged the female children not to resist the foster father’s advances. She told the children “to make daddy happy.” It was disclosed that the Mettes had the children watch pornographic videos with them, after which foster father Richard Mette would engage in sexual activity with the children. The Mettes also had a dice game with porno pictures on the dice that would determine the type of sex to be engaged in with the children. Ms. Mette was obviously a willing accomplice in this horrific sexual abuse that continued for years.
Relatives of the children who attended the trial recounted that at times they simply had to leave the courtroom because the testimony was so graphic that they were physically sickened. Indeed, parts of the case read by this journalist are so graphic as to be omitted from this column. ( see details in this 16 page pdf)
But the epilogue to this unspeakable tragedy, in many respects, gets even more incredible. The state initially charged Ms. Mette with 11 counts of child abuse, all of which were felonies. Subsequently, the state dropped all charges against Wendy Mette. In August 2012, DSS took the four female children from the custody of their adult biological sister and, incredibly, returned them to Ms. Mette. This is beyond belief. The children were returned to the house of torment.”
[People’s World.org 9/16/13 by Albert Bender]