78-Year-Old on Trial for Having Sex With His Wife

Some say Henry Rayhons' wife, Donna, who had dementia, wasn't able to give consent
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2015 11:40 AM CDT
78-Year-Old on Trial for Having Sex With His Wife
Former Iowa state legislator Henry Rayhons, right, and his attorney Joel Yunek wait for testimony to begin Friday, April 10, 2015, in Rayhons' third-degree sexual abuse trial in Garner, Iowa.   (AP Photo/The Globe-Gazette, Jeff Heinz)

An elderly man having sexual relations with his wife wouldn't normally be front-page news. But for Henry Rayhons, a former Republican legislator in Iowa, it's a trickier case. The 78-year-old is currently on trial, charged with felony sex abuse for allegedly having sex last May with his wife, Donna, in a nursing home a few days after he was told she wasn't able to consent to intimate relations, the New York Times reports. Donna, who died in August, suffered from dementia, with nursing home staff noting she no longer remembered her daughters' names, how to recall everyday words, or how to eat certain foods. "You could see that Donna had Alzheimer's. ... She was just in her pleasant little world," a nurse from Concord Care Center testified yesterday in Garner, per the Quad-City Times.

The center allows residents to have consensual sex, but Henry, who wed Donna in 2007, was told in a May 15 sit-down with center staff and Donna's daughters that Donna was unable to consent to sex due to her deteriorating mental state, KIMT reports. On May 23, Donna's roommate complained about Henry's visit, and a surveillance camera shows Henry leaving the room that day and dropping what's reported to have been Donna's underwear in a hamper; Henry was arrested shortly after his wife died a few months later. Although experts cited by the Times suggest dementia patients can benefit from such intimacy, Dr. John Brady, the nursing home's physician, compared a patient's receptive responses to sexual advances to those of a baby responding to love from its mother, the Des Moines Register reports. "I don't believe an infant makes an informed decision," Brady testified, per the Register. Click for more on the case. (Read more dementia stories.)

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