Associated Press

Abuse Charge Dropped, Couple Freed
19 Years Spent on the Run from False "Fad" Allegations

November 26, 2003

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (AP) - A couple who became fugitives in 1984 following accusations that they abused their 4-year-old daughter left jail feeling vindicated after prosecutors dropped the charges, but said their lives had been ruined.

Edward and Karri LaBois fled Minnesota with their daughter 19 years ago after the abuse accusation was made. They were arrested Nov. 10 when an informant tipped police that they were living in a Salt Lake City suburb.

Prosecutors this week dropped the charges, saying there wasn't enough evidence.

"How do I feel? I feel vindicated on one hand and beaten up on another," Edward LaBois told The Associated Press immediately upon his release Tuesday night.

The LaBoises did not know they were being released until minutes before they walked through the jail's exit door and shared a prolonged hug before leaving.

They said they have no idea where they will find employment or how they will live - the rent on their house is paid through the end of the year, and they are planning to sell their possessions to make a clean break of the past.

"I have no idea how we're going to get our lives together," Karri LaBois said.

Before they fled, the LaBoises ran a daycare in their home in Minnetonka, Minn. They denied the allegations when they were made, but fled the state when they learned their daughter would be removed from the home.

Since the couple's arrest, their daughter, Aubree Riegel, now 23, told investigators that she was never abused, said Hennepin County, Minn., prosecutor Amy Klobuchar. That contradicted a key piece of evidence used to bring the charges in 1984: her videotaped statement as a 4-year-old to a psychiatrist about the alleged abuse.

Klobuchar said a review of the videotape showed the girl giving contradictory information as she was interviewed and showed the interviewer asked leading questions that would probably not be allowed in a contemporary investigation.

Klobuchar also said that photographs taken from the LaBoises' home in a 1984 search, showing their daughter naked, "were not overtly sexual." The pictures were reviewed as part of the current investigation.

"They are pictures of her in a bathtub and that sort of thing," she said.

Karri LaBois said the pictures were nothing more than what any doting parent takes. "This is our pride and joy," she said. "Why wouldn't we take pictures of her?"

Klobuchar said investigators recently interviewed parents of children from the daycare and they had no recollection of their children suggesting that they had been abused.

A number of mass child-abuse convictions from the 1980s have been overturned. The Little Rascals day care center in Edenton, N.C., and the McMartin Preschool in Los Angeles were among the most notorious.

Edward LaBois said Minnesota should re-examine its child sexual abuse convictions from the early 1980s. "It's a scam and they know it," he said.

As for Riegel, she rushed to her parents' home in West Valley City after hearing media reports they were being released.

"I'm just glad my family is home," Riegel said as she prepared dinner for her parents and her 19-month-old son, Thayne. "We'll be able to live life ... We can have a life."

Associated Press reporters Chris Williams in Minneapolis and Patty Henetz in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.



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