Jury acquits Galena man of sex abuse

Posted: Sunday, June 30, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A Galena man was acquitted Friday of sex abuse charges but convicted of a November standoff with officers who wanted to question him about the case.

The Nenana Superior Court jury took more than a day to reach its verdicts in the case of Larry Wholecheese.

Wholecheese, 46, was acquitted of three counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, one count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and two counts of attempted first-degree sexual abuse of a minor. He was convicted of one count of second-degree escape and one count of third-degree assault.

Defense attorney Bill Satterberg said the verdict was a victory for his client despite the convictions. ''Those two charges were not the worries,'' he said.

Most of the sexual abuse counts related to a foster daughter of Wholecheese who accused him of abusing her regularly over four years beginning in 1997 when she was 8 years old. The single count of second-degree assault involved a 15-year-old girl who said Wholecheese molested her when he was supposed to be giving her a ride home from a New Year's Eve dance in 1990.

A Galena police officer and two troopers went to Wholecheese's house on Nov. 17, shortly after the younger girl made her allegations. Wholecheese ran upstairs, grabbed a shotgun and threatened to kill himself, leading to a 10-hour standoff before he surrendered.

More than 20 people testified during Wholecheese's trial. Among them were the alleged abuse victims.

In her closing statement Thursday morning, prosecutor Sara Gehrig Wholecheese had kept the younger girl quiet by threatening suicide if he were charged with the abuse.

In his closing, Satterberg characterized the girl as being very troubled, noting that other witnesses had questioned her truthfulness and called her vindictive and mean.

Satterberg also questioned the validity of the other girl's story, saying a New Year's Eve dance had not even taken place that year because of extreme cold.

Wholecheese remains in custody at the Fairbanks Correctional Center, but Satterberg has requested a hearing for Monday to seek reduction in bail based on the multiple acquittals.

Wholecheese is scheduled for sentencing in October.

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