By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A Dunn County jury of 10 women and two men has found former Wheeler police chief Gary Wayerski guilty of 16 felony counts related to sex crimes against two teenage boys.
The jury reached its decision about 3:30 p.m. Friday, October 12, following a week-long trial that started Monday, October 8.
The jury broke for lunch and started their deliberations about 11:45 a.m. Friday.
The charges against Wayerski stemmed from incidents that occurred between March and July of 2011.
Wayerski was convicted of two counts of child enticement, two counts of causing a child to expose sex organs, two counts of exposing a child to harmful material, two counts of causing a child 13 to 18 years of age to view sexual activity, and eights counts of the sexual assault of a child by a person who works or volunteers with children.
Wayerski, who worked part-time as police officer in Colfax for nine months in 2009 and later worked part-time as a police officer in Boyceville, was arrested July 18, 2011, in a cemetery in St. Croix County where he had intended to kill himself.
Officers who responded to the cemetery found a gun nearby on a headstone loaded with a single shot.
Wayerski had initially approached the Village of Wheeler about serving as a police officer and said he needed to work a few hours a week to maintain his police certification.
The Wheeler Village Board hired him for four hours per week, although Wayerski volunteered more hours of his time.
The Village of Wheeler had been without a police officer for several years because of budget constraints and relied on the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department to respond when needed.
In December of 2010, the Wheeler Village Board increased Wayerski’s employment to 20 hours per week.
Only a short time before he was arrested, a group of Wheeler residents attended a village board meeting in support of Wayerski and to ask if it would be possible to increase his employment to full time because a recent series of burglaries had left them feeling uneasy and because Wayerski seemed to have a good rapport with village residents of all ages.
Wayerski initially met one of the teenagers, who were 16 and 17 at the time they were sexually abused, at the gas station in Wheeler and met the other teenager after he had burglarized the Nazarene Church. Wayerski also arrested the boy he had met at the gas station for stealing an MP3 player from his employer.
Both boys reportedly had problems with drugs and alcohol, and Wayerski testified that the boys’ parents were “at their wits end” and wondered if Wayerski could supervise them and mentor them.
The sexual abuse occurred at Wayerski’s apartment in Menomonie. The boys testified that Wayerski had offered to help them get into shape, and then, over a period of months, had sexually assaulted them.
A long walk
On the night of July 15 and the early morning of July 16 of last year, the teenagers testified that they’d “had enough” and subsequently left Wayerski’s apartment early in the morning and walked from Tantara Apartments in Menomonie to the house of a friend at the corner of the U.S. Highway 12 and state Highway 79 to call the father of one of the boys to come and get them.
While testifying on his own behalf, Wayerski repeatedly denied having any sexual contact with the teenagers, and although Wayerski admitted to having alcohol in his home, denied giving alcohol to the boys.
Wayerski also testified that he was aware the boys were “slipping back into drugs and alcohol.”
On the morning of July 16, 2011, Wayerski said he had awakened to find the boys watching pornography on his television.
“I about hit the ceiling … I (blew) a gasket. I was really upset,” he said.
The boys said that when they went on ride-alongs with Wayerski in his police squad, Wayerski would talk about visits to sex clubs in the Twin Cities. Wayerski openly admitted to the teenagers going on ride-alongs with him, but said he would never talk about sex clubs in his police squad because of what is known as an “open mic.”
Periodically, dispatchers will put out a call for officers to check for an open mic because occasionally a microphone in a squad will be left in an “on” position, and whatever is said in the squad will be broadcast over the whole county, Wayerski said.
In addition to working part-time as a police officer, Wayerski worked full time as a truck driver delivering sand. The teenagers also went on a ride-alongs in Wayerski’s truck and said that he had sexually abused them there as well.
Wayerski testified that the number of hours it takes to drive to Chicago to make a delivery, combined with the number of allowable hours to drive at any given time, would not leave enough time for him to stop and sexually abuse the teenagers.
Wayerski testified that on the day he was taken into custody, he had driven around for hours and was not sure he could find the cemetery again.
When he found out what the boys were accusing him of, he said he knew his law enforcement career was over, thought his family would be better off without him and contemplated killing himself.
A St. Croix County deputy testified that Wayerski had indicated where the gun could be found and that he was taken into custody without incident.
Wayerski, along with his attorney, Lester Liptak, alleged that Wayerski was “set up” because he was getting too close to arresting people responsible for selling drugs in Wheeler.
During his closing argument, Liptak noted that someone had to be lying and said the jury should ask themselves, “Who is the liar?”
“Who wanted to protect drug sources and continue partying?” he asked.
A forensic expert testified there was a one in seven trillion chance that the ejaculate discovered on a plate in Wayerski’s apartment came from someone else other than one of the teenagers.
Liptak said the question is — why would Wayerski keep something like that around for a couple of weeks?
Liptak also noted that four witnesses had testified the teenagers had told them “none of it had ever happened” and that Wayerski had been “set up” and that the witnesses knew the teenagers but did not know each other.
“The kids are partying and doing illicit things while Gary is trying to help,” Liptak said.
The boys’ parents were concerned and approached Wayerski for help, “and Gary volunteered and thought he could do some good,” he said.
An inmate with 20 convictions Wayerski had known from where he was being held in the Chippewa County jail testified that Wayerski had asked him for advice on how to handle the case, but why would a law enforcement officer ask an inmate for advice? Liptak asked.
People in different professions relieve stress in different ways, and Wayerski used the pornographic images and videos investigators found on his computer to relieve stress, Liptak said.
Liptak noted that just because pornography was found on Wayerski’s computer, and because a Charter Communication’s bill for nearly $300 worth of pornographic material was found, did not mean that Wayerski was guilty of sexually assaulting the teenagers.
Ben Webster, a special prosecutor from Eau Claire County, said in his closing argument that the relevance of the pornography on Wayerski’s computer was not that the pornography existed but was relevant because the subjects in the pornography appeared to be teenaged boys.
Wayerski’s actions were “premeditated” and “predatory,” Webster said, noting that Wayerski had gained the trust of the teenagers and their parents.
“It was not a case of bad judgment by a friendly local cop,” he said.
The defendant sought out and befriended teenaged boys to entice them to his home for his own sexual gratification, Webster said, noting that as the adult and as a police officer, Wayerski had power over the boys and that they had testified Wayerski said he could have them sent to juvenile detention.
“The boys were not squeaky clean. They were rough around the edges,” Webster said, pointing out the incident of the church burglary and the strained relationships with their parents.
Defense witnesses testified that the teenagers said the incidents had never happened and did not want to talk about it, but the teenagers did not want to talk about what had happened them to because it was embarrassing, he said.
“They never told their parents, never mind friends and acquaintances,” Webster said.
Webster also noted that it was highly unusual for a police officer to mentor individuals he had arrested and to personally supervise their community service.
To make sure the boys kept coming back to his apartment and did not tell anyone what was occurring, Wayerski used alcohol, pornography and threats, Webster said.
Wayerski’s computer was found to have 100,000 pornographic images, much of which was organized into file folders and involved younger looking males, Webster said.
The pictures showed that Wayerski was interested in and attracted to teenage boys, he said.
Wayerski said a UW-Stout student who was living with him downloaded the pornography onto his computer, but the student left Wayerski’s apartment at the end of the semester in May, and the pornography was still on the computer in July, Webster said.
The student also said he was told to call before coming back to the apartment, even though the student had a key, he said.
Webster said the level of detail and the bizarre nature of the details indicated that the teenagers were telling the truth and asked the jury to use their common sense when evaluating the evidence.
After Judge William Stewart had read the verdicts and the jury had been dismissed, Liptak told local news media that Wayerski continues to maintain his innocence.
“No one comes out of this with good feelings, and I am certain it will be appealed,” Liptak said.
“I respect the jury’s verdict and certainly am in agreement with it,” Webster told the news media.
“Ultimately it comes down to the details the kids provided and what they endured. (It was a) cumulative effect,” he said.
A sentencing hearing for Wayerski is tentatively scheduled in Dunn County Circuit Court for January 9 at 10 a.m.
Judge Stewart ordered a pre-sentence investigation and ordered Wayerski’s bond to be vacated.
Wayerski had remained in custody since the time of his arrest last July on a $20,000 cash bond and was held in a location outside of Dunn County because of cases pending in Dunn County related to his employment as a police officer.
The Wheeler Police Commission terminated Wayerski’s employment last October.