Editor’s Note: Yesterday, we released a never before seen document that laid out the stunning abuse that the Mette children suffered in the home of Aberdeen’s Richard & Wendy Mette. Originally filed by an attorney for the children in 2013 and submitted to Attorney General Marty Jackley’s representative on the case William Golden, it’s a sickening testament to the failures of the Department of Social Services. This is information the people in power in South Dakota never wanted you to see.
You can read the document in full here but we wanted to post the crucial section here so nobody missed the details of the Department of Social Services failures that the state of South Dakota, State’s Attorneys Kimberly Dorsett and Michael Moore and Attorney General Marty Jackley have been covering up with lies and deception for years.
We’ve included scans of the Pages 2-5 at the bottom of this post.
PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND SUMMARY OF MATERIAL FACTS
The present motion is before the Court following multi-faceted proceedings involving the placement, care and custody of the five minor children named above. These children were initially in the care and custody of the Department of Social Services (“DSS”) through its Aberdeen office. At different times beginning in 1999 through 2006, the DSS placed the children involved in this case inthe home of Richard and Wendy Mette for respite or foster care purposes. Ultimately, the DSS arranged for the Mettes to adopt the children. The children’s placements and adoptions were all supervised, overseen and approved the DSS.
Beginning in 2001, the DSS first began receiving reports of abuse and neglect from the Mette’s foster children. In addition to concerning allegations of poor supervision and inappropriate name calling, the reports included detailed allegations of physical abuse that including spanking and kicking children. Several children reported that Richard Mette had been “tickling” them in ways that the children found uncomfortable. They also reported that they found pornography accessible in the common areas of the home. The Mettes did not deny that they had pornography inthe home.
After this initial investigation, the DSS entered into an agreement with the Mettes that prohibited them from having physical contact with their foster children, including “swatting… spanking… kicking, poking or tickling. …” Two children were removed from the home; five remained in their care, supposedly under DSS supervision.
Despite the DSS’ awareness of the inappropriate and abusive behaviors that had occurred in the Mette home, no substantive measures were taken to protect the children DSS placed in their home. In 2007, the Mettes were again reported for abuse. This time the allegation involved a detailed report of sexual abuse in addition to additional claims of ongoing physical abuse in the Mette home. The allegations included several children being slapped, grabbed, tickled, and forced to remove their pants during discipline sessions that involved being spanked with belts and shoes by Richard Mette. Allegations of openly accessible pornography throughout the Mette home were again reported. The report further alleged that Wendy Mette had witnessed some of the abusive behavior and had been told about other abusive events but had done nothing to protect the children.
The DSS investigation that followed this second report of abuse indicated that the reports of physical abuse were substantiated. It did not substantiate the sexual abuse allegations. The DSS concluded that Richard Mette was a “foreseeable danger” to children inhis care and that Wendy Mette “is not able to protect her children in an unsafe environment. It is foreseeable that if Rich does not get help for his anger that he will hann one or more of the children.” At this time, the DSS dictated that Richard Mette was not to be left alone with the children. However, the DSS did only a few follow-up visits with the Mertes and some of the children in the months that followed this concerning report, and then left the Mettes to do as they would with the children that DSS had placed in their care.
In January 2010, the DSS received yet another allegation of physical and sexual abuse from a child it had placed in the Mette home. This time, law enforcement executed a search warrant of the home and the children’s reports of pornography in the common areas of the home were proven true: 67 pornographic magazines and various pornographic videos were found throughout the three floors of the home.
The police found “sex dice” in a basket in the family dining room. (Sex dice have sexual favors instead of numbers printed on them. ) While the pornographic magazines were not per se child pornography, they featured blatantly incestuous themes. (Two of the pornographic magazines accessible to children in the home were entitled “Family Heat” and “Family Lust,” and advertised cover stories titled “Daddy Loves to Sniff My Panties!,” “Mom Can’t Resist Junior’s Dick,” “Bisexual Incest is Best,” and “Daddy’s Darling.”)
The search also disclosed some handwritten notes in which someone in the home had documented a serious struggle with pornography and lust. Four of the children reported being repeatedly sexually abused by Richard Mette and two of them also reported that Wendy Mette had been present while they were abused. The children also reported that Wendy Mette had ignored them or urged them to either not talk about the abuse or “just make himhappy.”
As a result of the 2010 investigation, Richard Mette was charged with 23 counts of abuse-related felonies that occurred between 2005 and 2010. He ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of rape of a child younger than 10 years old. Wendy Mette was charged with 11 abuse and neglect related felonies. Citing “concerns about the evidence in the case,” and referencing “tainted evidence,” the states attorney dismissed the charges against Wendy Mette.
At the same time, charges were brought against former state’s attorney Brandon Tailaferro and CASA volunteer Shirley Schwab: the theory behind the charges was that they had been encouraging the children to lie about Wendy Mette’s condonation of her husband’s abuse. On January 10, 2013, the perjury related case against Brandon Tailaferro and Shirley Schwab was ultimately dismissed for lack of evidence.
While the criminal cases were pending, on April 13, 2011, the Court appointed Scott Heidepreim to serve as the minor children’s guardian ad litem. Mr. Heidepriem hired present counsel to investigate and pursue the children’s potential claims. Because the Tailaferro/Schwab prosecutions could have a direct correlation to the children’s claims, Mr. Heidepriem agreed that it was in the children’s best interests to evaluate the merits, risks and benefits of the children’s legal claims against various parties, including Wendy Mette, at the time those charges were formally resolved. Inthe meantime, Mr. Heidepreim made a motion to withdraw at the children’s guardian ad litem because of a legal conflict that had developed after bis appointment.4 The motion was granted on July 25, 2012, but the Court ordered that a replacement guardian ad litem could be appointed in the future if needed.
Taking the children’s statements to the police and their therapist as true, and especially considering the Court’s summary dismissal of the witness tampering and perjury- related charges against Mr. Tailaferro and Ms. Schwab, it appears that there are identifiable and meritorious legal claims that should be further investigated and pursued against the South Dakota Department of Social Services, Richard Mette and Wendy Mette. While the Tailaferro and Schwab cases were being prosecuting, the Mettes divorced. The DSS returned the minor children to Wendy Mette’s custody.They remain in her custody.
According to her counsel, Wendy Mette is not supportive of the children pursing a civil claim against the Department of Social Services or Richard Mette. She is presumably equally defensive about the children exploring their legal rights against her.