Former state Representative Henry Rayhons declared “the truth finally came out” yesterday when a jury acquitted him on sex abuse charges. Rayhons, a 78-year-old farmer from Garner, had been accused of having sexual contact with his wife, Donna, who had Alzheimer’s. Prosecutors argued she lacked the mental capacity to consent.
Joel Yunek, the lawyer who defended Henry Rayhons in court, says the Rayhons family hopes this case “generates a discussion” about this sensitive issue.
“Should spouses be required to walk into a lawyer’s office and sign some sort of a document that says, ‘In the event I become demented, that I have a certain score, that I hereby give you the consent,’ and would that be enough, frankly under the state of the law?” Yunek said after the verdict. “They could say, ‘Well, you signed that when you were healthy, but would you have the consent to do that now?'”
Yunek’s own mother died Sunday of complications related to Alzheimer’s. Yunek says patients with Alzheimer’s and other conditions that cause dementia “aren’t zombies.” “They have feelings and they have emotions, Those are very basic things, but those basic things are what you should be celebrating, not what you should be disregarding,” Yunek said. “We shouldn’t be warehousing these people…Let ’em live their life to the fullest extent that they can.”
Henry and Donna Rayhons were widowers when they married in 2007. Donna’s daughters placed her in a nursing home about a year ago. She died last August and her side of the family does not plan to comment on Wednesday’s verdict.
(Reporting and photo by A. J. Taylor, KIOW, Forest City)