Longtime Iowa Legislator Charged with Sexual Abuse

A longtime Iowa legislator was charged with sexual abuse Friday after being accused of having sex with his wife despite being told she lacked the mental capacity to consent.

Authorities said Rep. Henry Rayhons abused his wife in May at the nursing home where she lived. Donna Rayhons, 78, died Aug. 8.

Henry Rayhons, 78, is a Republican from Garner who has served in the House since 1997. He announced this month that he would not seek re-election in November.

Authorities said the felony charge stemmed from an incident at the Concord Care Center in Garner. A criminal complaint filed Friday by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said Rayhons admitted having sexual activity with his wife, who reportedly had Alzheimer’s disease.

Henry Rayhons’ son, Dale Rayhons, called the arrest the result of “a witch hunt.”

Dale Rayhons said Friday evening that the charge was based on a report by Donna Rayhons’ roommate of unclear sounds coming from behind a curtain.

“This is unbelievable, what’s going on,” Dale Rayhons said. “He’s the kindest person you’d ever meet.”

Dale Rayhons said that while authorities say his father admitted to sexual contact, “that could be anything from a hug or a kiss.”

The criminal complaint said Rayhons acknowledged being told May 15 that his wife did not have the cognitive ability to consent to sexual activity.

On May 23, Henry Rayhons went into his wife’s room and pulled the curtain closed, the complaint said. Donna Rayhon’s roommate told authorities she heard noises indicating Henry Rayhons was having sex with Donna Rayhons, the complaint said.

Surveillance video showed Henry Rayhons leaving his wife’s room and discarding undergarments into a laundry bag, the complaint said.

DCI agents arrested Rayhons on Friday. He was released from jail after posting $10,000 cash as bail, court records show.

Elizabeth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said it used to be legal for a man to have sex with a nonconsenting wife. But the Legislature passed a bill about 25 years ago that defined such an act as a crime, she said.

However, she noted that Iowa law still specifies that a sexual assault perpetrated by one spouse on another is not considered a “forcible felony.”

People convicted of forcible felonies are more likely to serve long prison sentences.

Barnhill said few Iowans are arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a spouse, Barnhill said.

“Convictions are even rarer,” she said.

She added that sex assault prosecutions can be especially complicated if a victim has died or is mentally incompetent to testify about what happened.

Henry and Donna Rayhons were married in 2007. Two months ago, a Hancock County judge ordered that her daughter, Suzan Brunes, be made her temporary guardian, the Mason City Globe Gazette reported in June.

Brunes told the judge that Henry Rayhons had removed her mother from the facility without staff permission and that he had failed to follow instructions not to be in her room with the door closed and not to enter the room because of conflicts with her roommate.

Henry Rayhons abruptly dropped his re-election bid earlier this month.

In the statement announcing his exit from the contest, Rayhons said he had “ongoing family and health matters to attend to.”

Rayhons said when he quit the race that he intended to complete his current term, which ends in January. A spokeswoman for House Republicans confirmed Friday that he had not resigned his seat.

Party officials nominated a new candidate for his seat, Terry Baxter of Garner, in a special convention Thursday. An online biography posted by the Republican Party describes Henry Rayhons as a semiretired farmer.

A spokeswoman for Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen said Friday that he would have no comment.

Donna Rayhons’ obituary said she was married 48 years to Leonard “Slim” Young. They farmed, kept bees and became ecclesiastical ministers in the Catholic Church, the obituary said. Her first husband died in 2001.

The obituary noted that she married Henry Rayhons in 2007. “Donna enjoyed spending time with Henry and being part of his family,” it said. “She supported Henry as a state representative and enjoyed her years at the Capitol and attending political functions with him.”

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