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Former Wheeler man sentenced to 15 years for sexual assault of 9-year-old

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE  — A former Wheeler man has been sentenced to seven years of initial confinement in a state prison and eight years of extended supervision for the second degree sexual assault of a nine-year-old girl.

Judge Michael J. Bitney sentenced Terry L. Gums, 54, in Dunn County Circuit Court on October 20.

Gums assaulted the girl at his home in Wheeler and pleaded no contest to the charge of second-degree sexual assault of a child on August 8.

During a preliminary hearing in January, Rod Dicus, a deputy with the Dunn County sheriff’s department, testified that the girl lived within walking distance of where Gums lived in Wheeler and would take meals over for him and would watch television at his residence.

At one point, a woman who lived in the same residence as Gums came home from work early and walked in on inappropriate sexual contact between Gums and the girl, Dicus testified.

Judge Bitney gave family members from both sides an opportunity to address the court during the October 20 sentencing hearing.

Gums’ wife told the court they had been married on September 5 of this year but that she had known him since she was 15.

“We love Terry and want the best for him,” she said.

Gums’ mother-in-law told the court she had known him since her daughter was in junior high and that he was “a wonderful guy” and it was “not all Terry’s fault.”

“If this did happen, I don’t believe it was all Terry’s fault,” she said, adding “young girls put it all on the guy’s shoulders” and that she did not believe Gums had sexual contact with the nine-year-old unless it was “consensual” sex.


The charge of second degree sexual assault of a child is a felony with a maximum penalty of up to a $100,000 fine and/or 40 years in prison, noted Andrew Maki, Dunn County assistant district attorney.

“This is a serious crime,” Maki said, pointing out that Gums was in his 50s and the girl was nine years old.

The girl is cognitively disabled, and Gums “took advantage,” Maki said.

“The victim bears no responsibility in this case,” he said.

Another relative of the girl’s said that Gums had sexually abused her when she was between the ages of 12 and 14, Maki said.

According to the pre-sentence investigation report, Gums does not grasp his personal responsibility in the sexual assault of the child and had said that the girl was dressed inappropriately, he said.

After Gums was arrested and was ordered by the court not to have any contact with the girl, he bought her a bicycle and gave it to her, Maki said.

There is a need for an individual deterrent but also a need to protect the public, Maki said, adding that he agreed with the sentencing suggested in the PSI and recommended ten years in prison and eight years of extended supervision.

Poor childhood

“Violating a child and her trust is terrible,” said Donna Burger, the attorney representing Gums.

The defendant had a “poor childhood,” and he and another brother ended up in foster care. Gums had academic problems in school, was a special education student, and needed more help than he got, Burger said.

Gums has tried to find a job and a place to rent, but no one will hire him and no one will rent an apartment to him after the accusation and then the conviction of sexually assaulting a child, she said.

An alternative pre-sentence investigation used a screening tool that indicates Gums functions at a 12-year-old level and has poor planning skills and poor impulse control, Burger said.

The alternative PSI says that Gums is a low risk for new sexual offenses, she said.

Gums promised the victim a bike and gave her the bike for her birthday, Burger said.

Burger said a more appropriate sentence would be to withhold sentencing, place Gums on probation and set conditions that he is to have no unsupervised contact with minor females.


A 54-year-old sexually assaulting a child of nine is “serious, disturbing and troubling to the court and to the community,” Judge Bitney said.

“I disagree wholeheartedly with trying to put the blame on the victim. Children are not responsible for what happens (to them) at the hands of a 54-year-old. To say so offends the court,” Judge Bitney said, glaring in the direction of Gums, his wife and his mother-in-law.

Before pronouncing sentence, Judge Bitney said he did not want to hear any outbursts and told those who were there in support of Gums that if they disrupted the court, he would have them removed from the courtroom.

Gums placed at least partial blame on the victim and said she wore provocative and inappropriate clothing and that she initiated sexual contact with Gums, Judge Bitney said.

Assigning blame to the victim indicates that Gums “has significant rehabilitative needs,” he said.

Judge Bitney said he was also deeply troubled that Gums had violated the terms of his bail and that he had contacted the child and bought her a bicycle.

“You were ordered to have no contact, and why you weren’t charged with bail jumping, I don’t know,” Judge Bitney said.

This was not an isolated incident. The sexual assaults occurred over a period of time, and there were repeated sexual assaults, he said.

The girl’s relative reported that Gums had assault her when she was 13, and that there was another victim and another crime that went uncharged, Judge Bitney said.

Gums downplays his involvement in the sexual assault, admits an interest in pornography and admits that he is attracted to children, he said.

Judge Bitney noted that there is no consensus on the best way to treat sex offenders.

“Some think that perpetrators of child sexual assaults cannot be rehabilitated,” he said.

The public needs to know that people who prey on children will be punished, Judge Bitney said.

The court is not convinced that Gums’ needs can be met in the community and that the community would be safe, he said.

Judge Bitney sentenced Gums to 15 years, with seven years of initial confinement in state prison, eight years of extended supervision, and ordered no contact with the victim or her family, no unsupervised contact with minor females and that Gums complete any and all programs that are recommended.

Judge Bitney also ordered Gums to register as a sex offender and to remain registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Conditions of extended supervision also include that Gums cannot possess a firearm and that he is prohibited from voting until his sentence is served.

Restitution will be determined at a later date, Judge Bitney said.

The judge ordered Gums to be taken into custody immediately and sent to the Dodge Correctional Institution.