Custody case preceded charges of kidnap, assault

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2003

A local man faces charges of sexually assaulting the mother of his child.

Harold L. Wheaton Jr., 36, was being held Friday at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center in lieu of $50,000 bail on one count of kidnapping and one count of sexual assault.

Juneau police arrested Wheaton on Wednesday night, a day before was scheduled to appear in court in a domestic hearing. Members of Wheaton's family said the domestic case concerned whether Wheaton or the alleged victim would have custody of their 9-year-old son.

The criminal complaint alleges that on July 15, Wheaton forced the woman into his car, drove her to his home and forced sexual relations on her. It alleges that he threatened to crush a ring on her finger with a pair of pliers and held a handgun to her head.

Wheaton did not enter a formal plea Thursday. Juneau District Magistrate John W. Sivertsen Jr. scheduled an Aug. 8 preliminary hearing to determine if there is probable cause for the charges.

Under Alaska law, the usual prison sentence for first-degree sexual assault committed with a firearm by someone who has no prior felony convictions would be 10 years. The maximum sentence would be 30 years. Judges have wide discretion in kidnapping sentences beyond a minimum of five years.

Harold Wheaton Sr., the defendant's father, said he didn't believe the charges.

"They were talking about getting married," he said.

The defendant's brother, Harvey Wheaton, also said "Junior" had called him to say they were engaged. He said the two have never been married, but they had one child, raised since infancy by his brother.

"They split up not long after the baby was born," he said.

He said his brother went to court and gained legal custody long before the couple started seeing each other again in the middle of June.

In the middle of July, both filed for custody of their first child, he said.

When Wheaton appeared before Sivertsen on the charges Thursday, the calendars on the courtroom door showed he had been scheduled for a hearing in the domestic matter that morning.

Court records show that on July 18, the alleged victim contacted Juneau police to say she had been assaulted. Investigators observed that she had a number of bruises on her body, and they obtained a search warrant authorizing secret tape recordings of the alleged victim's conversations with Wheaton.

An affidavit signed by District Attorney Pat Gullufsen alleges that during the conversations, Wheaton "made admissions about carrying (the alleged victim) out of her home forcibly and threatening to crush the ring on her finger with pliers."

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