Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Long Nights in Cassville

     I don't care how long it's been since you've been laid, there is no excuse whatsoever to hump a corpse.
That's a declarative statement. And it is something that I believe is true. The incident that prompted me to make this bold, sweeping, declarative statement occurred in Cassville, WI in 2006. Now Cassville is a very small town that lies on the bank of the Mississippi River, and it's famous mostly for its tiny, iconic auto ferry that crosses the river to Turkey Creek, Iowa. I am in love with small, rural settings but even that doesn't sound appealing to me. The point is, however, that there cannot be a whole lot to do in Cassville. Madison is over an hour away by car, there is nothing at the Turkey Creek Landing at the other end of the ferry, and you could take a ride to Platteville and hit the bars but there are no girls that go to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Well, there are some girls there, but there are so many more guys that they aren't going to date someone as lame as you are. So if you live in Cassville I could see how the nights can get long and lonely. But still, there is no excuse whatsoever to hump a corpse.
     That fact, however, did not seem to inhibit three Cassville residents from digging up the corpse of a 20-year old woman who perished in a motorcycle accident in an effort to have sex with the body. I am serious. As perverted and messed up as I can be on any given day, I could still never make this kind of thing up. I think it's because I couldn't fathom going about this myself, so I guess that's why I couldn't fathom three other people thinking it was a good idea. One would think that you would come to a point: leaning on the handle of a shovel in a dark Cassville graveyard, sweating your balls off, covered with dirt, that maybe you would start to think that what you were doing was wrong. Doesn't that make sense? At that point don't you think maybe you'd just go find a prostitute and slip them an extra five bucks to let you call them the dead woman's name? That sounds a lot easier and WAY less creepier to me.
     None of these facts seemed to enter into the mind of out intrepid trio as 23-year-old Alex Gurnke, his twin brother Nicholas, and 22-year-old Dustin Radke sat around the kitchen table hatching their plan in August of 2006. Laura Tennessen had been buried less than a week before when a neighbor reported a strange man loitering in the town's cemetery. When police arrived they found Alex Grunke, who told them that his brother and Radke were digging up Tennessen's grave in the St. Charles Cemetery. When police discovered the grave site the grave had been opened but the casket had not been removed. Nicholas Grunke and Radke were picked up the next morning walking back to Grunke's home in nearby Ridgeway.
     Wait, wait. So let me get this straight. These tools weren't even from Cassville? Nope. The Grunke brothers were from Ridgeway, which is actually 67 miles away from Cassville. Radke was from Dodgeville, which is next to Ridgeway and is still maybe 60 miles from Cassville. This is getting stranger and stranger the more we investigate things, isn't it Company? I should probably make it a habit of doing my research before I start typing. But anyway, these winners got into Alex's car, and armed with shovels, crowbars, and a box of condoms - CONDOMS! - at least they were practicing safe sex I suppose - drove an hour to dig up the body of a woman they had never met so that just Nicholas could have sex with it. Blows my mind on so many levels.
     First of all, there's our boy Nick. There have been more girls than I care to count in this life that I have thought I wanted to sleep with that I never got the chance to. But never once did I ever consider going to their grave, digging up the body, and going to town on them after they were dead. And for Nicholas, it wasn't even that. At the time of the arrest, Grant County Sheriff Keith Grovier said that there was no evidence of telephone or e-mail contact, and that there was no evidence whatsoever that the gross, nasty criminal losers knew the victim. It's almost like the three saw it on the TV and just made a very, very, very wrong and disturbing decision.
     Second, I don't have a brother, so I guess that there is a lot of things to do with brotherly love that I just do not understand. But I am thinking that if one of my closest friends, no matter how close of a friend they were, came over or called me up and asked me to help them dig up a body so they could get intimate with it, I would tell them they were out of their God-damned mind. And then I would call the cops and notify them so that they could follow my buddy around and maybe commit him. I certainly can tell you that I wouldn't hop in the car, cruise down to Cassville, poke around the ferry dock for a couple of minutes, then go to the cemetery and get down to work. That would not happen. It's a 100% metaphysical certainty. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
     Anyway, the reason I am going on and on about this, the reason that it came into my attention today, is because the trial of Alex Grunke just wrapped up. And honestly, while I am a little appalled with how it ended, the more I think about it the less surprised I am. The trial ended late Tuesday night when Grant County Circuit Court Judge George Curry called a mistrial. A jury of his peers found Grunke guilty of criminal damage to a cemetery and attempted misdemeanor theft, but remained deadlocked on the charge of attempted third-degree sexual assault. Which brings about a very interesting question: Can one sexually assault something that is not alive?
     The courts seemed to have some trouble with this questions, as well. Originally, a lower court has ruled that nothing in the laws of the great state of Wisconsin specifically banned necrophilia. Oh my. We really are becoming the Alabama of the Great White North, aren't we? Thankfully, once the Wisconsin Supreme Court got their hands on the case, they dug a little deeper and decided that state law does indeed ban sex with dead bodies. Well that's a relief. In the end the debate, even though it has been decided by the court system, in the jurors minds is whether or not sexual assault can be attempted on something that is not alive.        And I honestly can't bring myself to say that it can be. Let's be honest here, if I am going to town on a blow-up doll, that's not a living thing. Neither is a wooden post. Or the barrel in the joke about the lumberjacks in the lumber camp. So where do we draw the line. I mean, you might think I am not right if you catch me humping a wooden post, but I seriously doubt that you would think of me as immoral, right? Certainly in need of help and definitely a little gross, but immoral? That carries a totally different connotation. Yet, we all know that what these guys did was off the charts wrong in every way possible. About as immoral as one can get. There is never any excuse to hump a corpse. A legislator introduced legislation to make necrophilia a crime, a scholarship was instituted in Laura's name and the world spun on. But since the necrophilia law wasn't in effect at the time of the crime, it can't be considered in this case. That, combined with the glacial pace of this country's legal system means that every so often, even three years later, we get to revisit this strangest of strange cases. And I don't like it. I don't like it at all. Unfortunately, the written words on paper that govern how we go about our lives at the time did not specifically state what we all already know: there is no excuse whatsoever to hump a corpse.

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