Chester Lee Grauberger Story:
Edited By Pamela Eller
NOTE: women who are being abused are alone and
frightened. They will protect the abuser and they will lie for him and
make excuses for him, in an effort to protect themselves from more
beatings. Abused women have the mistaken belief that the abuser can and
will change with enough love and excuses and cover-ups. They're more
afraid of being alone than in a dysfunctional relationship. Although it
may not be true in this particular story, there are many of us on the
team who believe the victim fits into this abused woman, enabler
category. That is up to you to decide.
My dream comes true and all my hard work was beginning to
pay off. My dream turns into a nightmare. My life as I knew it has been
destroyed and the evidence is there to prove my innocence in the Bureau
of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) laboratory.
At the time of this crime I was 28 years old. I graduated
from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN with a BA in sociology, with
minors in Political Science and History. Upon graduation I accepted a
position at a juvenile correctional center as a counselor. After
working there, I went to work for the District # 31 schools in Bemidji,
During college, I had been a three-time All-American and
National Champion in wrestling. While working with the troubled youth,
I also coached wrestling for both the high school and the elementary
programs. When I began my work with the high school, I worked with
students who had MMMI (mild to moderate mental impairments). After
doing this for one year, I went back to school. The superintendent of
the district #31 schools granted me a one-year leave of absence to
pursue a degree in Special Education that dealt with behavior
problematic children. I was guaranteed a position with the District #31
schools upon my return.
After obtaining my license, I returned to the district and
worked with the students with EBD (emotional and behavior disorders).
After a year, I chose to expand my career. I moved to Hendricks, MN, a
small rural town, and obtained a position as an elementary teacher in
the Special Education area of EBD. In addition to the teaching, I
accepted a position as the assistant head wrestling coach at Southwest
State University in the neighboring town of Marshall, MN. I was
enrolled in graduate school and was scheduled to complete my Master's
degree in special education in the winter of 1997.
In April 1997, I was arrested and charged with first-degree
criminal sexual assault. I was accused of assaulting a woman at a
payphone during the early morning hours of April 18, 1997, carrying her
over my shoulder down a dark alley, and raping her. I was seen fleeing
the scene and was subsequently arrested after a short foot pursuit.
Blood was noted on my shirt and my hands. In January 1998, I was
convicted and in March 1998, I was sentenced to 258 months (a triple
upward departure from the Minnesota sentencing guidelines).
The State claims the victim identified me from a six-man
photo lineup, that I had the victim's blood on my shirt, watch, and
pants. They said I was observed fleeing the scene and caught by the
police after a short pursuit on foot. A witness called by the
prosecution testified I was intoxicated and acting rudely, including
grabbing her arm and raising my voice. The prosecution's BCA expert
testified the victim couldn't be excluded as a source from a blood
sample DNA test done of my shorts. The arresting officers both
testified that my pants were undone. An eyewitness testified that she
saw me get up and pull up my pants upon arrival of the police and a
police officer testified that he saw me washing out my shirt while in
the holding cell at the jail. The prosecution's BCA expert testified
that bloodstains from my shirt appeared to be diluted. My car was
located in the area and confiscated. The victim said she was penetrated
with what originally was a "fist" and then later changed to what "felt
like a fist." Also, that there was penile penetration and "3 strokes"
later changed to "fingers or possibly a stick." The victim also said
she scratched the attacker on his neck or shoulder and may have
scratched him on his lip.
I had been out that evening. I had just been named the new
head wrestling coach for Southwest State University where I had been
assisting. This made me the youngest head wrestling coach in the
country. It was also a dream come true for me. The years of hard work
and determination were paying off. Out with me that evening was the
former head wrestling coach and friend, Mike Sterner. We would often go
out together after evenings of wrestling recruiting and discuss
coaching philosophies and enjoy each other's company. That evening we
were at an establishment when some alumni Mike Sterner knew entered.
Mike introduced me as the new head wrestling coach to these alumni.
I accompanied three of the alumni to another establishment.
I was with two of the alumni throughout the evening, including riding
to and from the second establishment with them. After returning to my
car at the original establishment, I stopped at a payphone to call a
young female I had run into that night at the second establishment.
This woman was a student at Southwest State University I had been
trying to avoid. She had interest in me that I did not have for her. I
felt guilty for blowing her off, so when I saw her at the second
establishment, I said I would call her as I walked away.
I pulled into a parking lot and used a payphone to call this
student. When I got the answering machine, I hung up. As I was
returning to my car I saw a woman approach. I asked the woman if she
needed a ride somewhere. She said "No," and I continued to my car. I
started to drive home which was about a 45-minute drive. As I came to a
stop at a stoplight I thought I should call my then-girlfriend who was
at my house waiting for me. I had called her earlier to tell her I was
going to be late. The call was long distance and I figured I would use
the phone in one of my offices, located by a back door to the athletic
area of the college.
While I was driving, I had the urge to urinate. The only gas
station in sight was closed. I decided to pull onto a side street and
urinate next to a tree and a pile of brush. I was getting out of my car
and I heard what I thought was a scream. After hesitating for a moment
I shrugged it off to most likely being some kids horsing around late at
night. I proceeded to urinate. As I began, I again heard the scream.
This time I knew it was a scream and I headed in the direction from
which the scream came. I went through a couple of people's yards and
came to what appeared to be the middle of an alley. I was about to turn
around and go back when I heard some crying. I went further down the
alley and found someone lying on the ground. The person looked small,
but was undistinguishable as far as gender. There were no lights in the
alley and it was very dark. I began asking the person if he or she was
all right. The only response I got was crying and sobbing. I again
asked and knelt down next to the person. Again, the response was
unintelligible. I put my hands on the person to sort of shake gently to
try to gain attention from the person. Not knowing what had happened, I
didn't know how to respond. Upon putting my hands on the person, this
person then began screaming, kicking, and flailing arms. I stood up and
Just then, the alley was lit up with a very bright light. A
car was racing down the alley towards us. I looked down at the person
on the ground and now I could see it was a woman covered in blood. I
looked down at my hands and saw blood on them. I panicked and ran. I
ran at what I thought was an angle towards the main street. Once out on
the main street I saw a police car coming towards me from up the
street. I came to the sidewalk and stopped. Before the police car
arrived where I was standing, I was tackled from behind by another
police officer on foot. This was done with considerable force. I was
put in the squad car and taken to jail. When I arrived at the jail, the
officers took my boots, belt, and watch. I was put in an empty room.
Some time later I was taken to a different cell at a different jail. I
was put in a cell with a toilet and sink. I urinated and began washing
my hands when an officer came in and asked for my shirt and I gave it
to him. A short time later, I was asked for all my clothes and later I
was interviewed. I had been asking each officer I saw what was going on
and when I could leave. None would respond to me. As the interview
began I believed I would be asked about drinking and driving. I thought
a car had hit the woman in the alleyway and I was surprised when I was
asked why I assaulted the woman. A few hours later I was taken to the
hospital where blood and hair samples were taken.
Months later when the DNA results were finally returned my
attorney read them to me over the phone at the jail. They were all in
my favor, proving my innocence. I asked when I would be able to go
home. I was appalled to find out the State of Minnesota would be
prosecuting me anyway. My attorney told me not to worry about a thing;
the DNA evidence would set me free.
When it came time for the trial to begin in January 1998,
the judge ruled out the crucial DNA evidence that my attorney wanted to
present to the jury. The judge said the victim was protected by the
Rape Shield Law and therefore, my attorney was not allowed to question
her about the fact she has a history of being battered and also the
fact the semen found in the victim's underwear matched the DNA of her
boyfriend after both another man and I were checked first and both came
back negative. In response to this, my attorney objected so it would be
on record, and said, "I guess I should have interviewed some of those
witnesses." My attorney based his whole defense on the DNA evidence
because that was powerful, absolute proof of my innocence, but when the
judge ruled it out everything seemed to go downhill. As a result it
took only five days of testimony and a 5-hour deliberation to wrongly
Special Agent Paul Soppeland from the BCA arranged and
presented a photo lineup to the victim. The photos were of six men.
Only one of the men had an obvious military style, flattop haircut.
This is how the victim had described the man she saw using the payphone
before her and also who had asked her if she needed a ride. When
Special Agent Paul Soppeland of the BCA questioned the victim, she was
never asked if she could identify from the lineup the person who had
attacked and raped her, only if she could identify the person she saw
using the payphone before her. When asked about the photos chosen for
the photo lineup, Agent Paul Soppeland testified at the Omnibus hearing
on July 28, 1997 that he does not know what a military style haircut
is. Some of the photos of the men in the lineup had shoulder length
Later the victim identified me as the person she saw fleeing
the scene. Not until the day of the trial did the victim identify me as
the attacker. In previous statements, the victim says she did not see
who attacked her. When the victim was asked if she could pick out the
man who assaulted her she said she couldn't because her face was full
of blood. She did not identify me as the person who hit her in the face
or carried her down the alley. The victim says that the person at the
payphone had a "military style haircut, like someone out of boot camp."
I was the only man in the six-man photo lineup with a "flattop or
military style" haircut.
The blood on my hands, watch, and the droplets on my shirt
were a result of attempting to assist the victim I had discovered after
hearing her screams. Also, the blood on the back of my pants was a
result of a transfer from the blood on my hands during the time of
I was fleeing from the scene because the car I saw suddenly
came speeding down the alley directly towards me. The car had no lights
on to indicate that it was a police car. The victim also says that the
car coming down the alley was unidentifiable. When seeing the police
car on Main Street I stopped and was tackled from behind by an officer
pursuing on foot. The pursuing officer and the second officer on the
scene contradict each other in their police reports about their
apprehension of me. During the trial, the two officers were no longer
Other witnesses called by the prosecution said I did not
appear intoxicated and was behaving as a perfect gentleman throughout
the entire evening, including the time a previous witness had claimed I
was rude to her The previous witness was the college student who was
interested in me and whom I had been putting off.
Dr. Donald E. Riley, the defense expert witness testified
that the victim's DNA can and should be excluded from the source found
in my shorts. Dr. Riley testified further to say that the BCA misread
its test results. Dr. Riley pointed out three obvious markers that show
that the victim's DNA is excluded as a source found in my shorts: the
semen sample found in the victim's underwear does not match mine, the
semen sample does not match that of the man with whom she had most
recently had sex three days prior, but the sample does match that of
her boyfriend with whom the victim says that she had sex 10-11 days
prior. The victim and her boyfriend were in an abusive relationship,
including assault that resulted in the victim spending time at a
women's shelter. The judge disallowed any discussion regarding the
victim's relationship with the other man and the abusive boyfriend The
prosecution did not call in the BCA lab technician who conducted
several of the key analyses on the evidence as a witness for the state.
The defense tried to subpoena this BCA lab technician on two different
occasions, once before the trial and once during the course of the
trial, however, both times proved to be unsuccessful. The two BCA lab
technicians the prosecution did call to testify avoided answering key
questions from the defense by saying they were not the ones who
performed the actual test. Why wasn't the BCA Lab technician who
performed several of the key analyses on the evidence able to be found
on the two separate occasions when the defense tried to serve a
subpoena? What can he tell us?
The eyewitness statements do not match those of the victim.
One eyewitness testified that she observed me with my pants down past
my waist as she saw me fleeing the scene. Both the victim and the
police officer who first arrived on the scene say that my pants were
up. In addition, how would I even be able to run if my pants were down
past my waist? Before the trial, the eyewitness was asked repeatedly if
there was anything unusual about my clothes that were noticeable. The
eyewitness said "No." When the defense asked why this was never
mentioned before, the eyewitness had no response. Also, this eyewitness
testified that she had not told this information to anyone until now.
The newspaper article that mentioned that my pants were undone may have
influenced the eyewitness.
The police did not take my shirt from me right away at the
jail even though they took my watch because it had blood on it. When
the arresting officers were asked if they noticed anything unusual
about me when they arrested me, they both testified by saying, "No."
The police and the BCA lab later said large amounts of blood were found
on my shirt. Inspection of the shirt showed a very small amount of
blood on it, in fact, only a few small droplets of 1-3 mm in size were
found on my shirt according to BCA lab technician James Liberty's
testimony during cross-examination at the trial. The BCA lab never
tested my undershirt. My shirt was wadded up and put in a paper bag
before being sent to the BCA lab for testing. There were two large
marks in the soil that appeared to be from boots or shoes. It appeared
as if someone dug her feet in and overturned the soil during a
struggle. The police sent my boots to the BCA Lab for soil sample
testing. The results showed the soil from the crime scene did not match
what was on my boots. The police later said that the marks in the soil
are not from boot prints. Why did they send my boots to the BCA Lab for
The man who assaulted the victim by punching her in the nose
first and then throwing her over his shoulder and carrying her down the
alleyway, which was about the length of a football field, as the victim
described it, would have been covered in blood and I was not. The
victim was found next to a garage next to her apartment. Why would her
attacker carry her all the way down to her apartment and then rape her?
Was it someone she knew and the man was trying to get to her apartment?
There were many dark and secluded spots in the alley where someone
could hide and attack someone and not be seen. When I heard the screams
I was a couple of blocks away. The time between my seeing her at the
payphone and hearing the screams was several minutes in which I had
begun to drive home and then had changed direction. That is when I had
decided to go to the college before returning home. The college is
about ¾ of a mile away. My home is 45 miles from there. After turning
around at a stoplight I had driven part way to the college and pulled
over to urinate, when I heard the first scream.
The victim testified that she was bleeding profusely and her
clothes were totally saturated with blood and she fought and struggled
as much as she could. There was also a trail of blood from the payphone
down the length of the alleyway where she was thrown on the ground. The
minute, 1-3 mm droplets of blood, found on me are the result of when I
was kneeling down beside the victim when I initially found her and
asked if she was okay and she responded by screaming, kicking, and
flailing her arms. Since she was covered in her own blood this sudden
flailing and kicking obviously sent blood flying in many directions,
thus getting on me.
The emergency room doctor, Dr. LaPorte, testified that in
his examination of the victim's genital area, no tears, abrasions, or
foreign bodies were identified in the vaginal or pubic areas. The
victim had said that she was penetrated with a fist and then a penis.
Dr. LaPorte testified that an adult fist could not enter the vagina
without causing damage. At the trial, the victim changed her story to
say that it felt like a fist, but it could have been a stick and also
that she didn't know if the attacker penetrated her. Dr. LaPorte made
the diagnosis of assault with questionable penetration. Detective Paula
Curry signed three separate affidavits saying, "The victim said her
attacker inserted his penis inside her vagina and also he inserted his
fist." The victim's change in story from her original statement taken
on the day of the assault to the statement she made while on the stand
during the trial are the result of the negative results from the DNA
testing proving I was innocent. My hands were bloody as I admitted and
as noted by the police. I would not have been able to commit these acts
without leaving signs of blood in the victim's vagina, around the pubic
area, and on the victim's underwear, on me, in my shorts and groin area.
In the victim's initial statement, she says she knew she had
scratched her attacker during the course of the struggle. Later during
the trial, she changed her story by saying she only thought she had
scratched him. This change of story came after the results of the DNA
tests done on her fingernail clippings excluded me.
No fingerprints were taken at the crime scene, including the
phone that was hung up after the attack, allegedly by the attacker.
There were blood splatters and a blood smear on a wall at the scene,
but no attempts were made at fingerprinting this.
The police may have failed to fingerprint the phone booth
due to police contamination. The calls made from the payphone were
researched and the last call made was after the assault had occurred.
All calls but the last one were accounted for. The detective, Paula
Curry, testified about the phone numbers and said that she got an
answering machine and no call back. Why were no fingerprints taken at
the crime scene?
Dr. Donald E. Riley, Expert DNA witness for the defense said
that there was enough human DNA on the vaginal swab to perform PCR
testing and that the BCA Lab either chose not to do the tests or they
did not share the results with the defense. The prosecution objected
and no further testimony in this area was allowed. Also, the BCA Lab
did not perform any testing on the hair samples. This may have resulted
in exculpatory evidence for the defense.
The prosecution knew that the DNA did not match mine as they
received the results from the BCA on 8-15-97. Yet, they did not inform
the defense about these results until November 1997, resulting in a
delay of the trial until January 1998.
Pre-trial press on the case (Marshall Independent newspaper,
radio, and television) included statements from the prosecution on
their opinions of the case such as it being a "slam dunk" case. The
bail was set so high as to make it impossible to pay $400,000.00
My trial attorney was grossly negligent in his presentation,
preparation, and knowledge of the case. He forgot notes, knocked
materials onto the floor from where he was sitting during the course of
the trial, misunderstood testimony, constantly repeated himself,
interrupted testimony, referred to me by a name other than my own
several times throughout the trial and didn't question the witnesses
prior to the trial. During the course of the trial, this attorney was
also under investigation for tax evasion and was later suspended by the
Minnesota Supreme Court for several reasons including client neglect.
My appellate attorney refused to use any of this information
of my incompetent attorney in the preparation of the appeal brief. The
appellant attorney also failed to investigate aspects of the case
including the scientific evidence (DNA), which was in my favor as well
as Dr. Donald E. Riley's testimony in which he says that the BCA
misread its own results.
I would like to have the DNA on the vaginal swab tested.
This is the one the BCA Lab claims there was not enough semen present
to be tested. However, Dr. Donald E. Riley, DNA expert hired by the
defense testified that there was enough semen present to be tested
however, the BCA Lab chose not to do it.
As many before me, I am requesting your help. There is a
bill that was just passed in Minnesota called the Omnibus Crime Bill
SF2221. It allows for the use of post-conviction DNA evidence to be
admitted as evidence to receive a retrial if it is new evidence that
was not allowed or used in the first trial. This applies to my case.
If you can, imagine being in my situation. The evidence
needed to prove my innocence is right there. Why can't it be used? I
need help. I can't stay here another 13 years. I did not do this. My
life as I had it has already been destroyed. I went from being the
youngest head wrestling coach in the nation, to being a prison inmate.
I just want what is left of my life. And I don't want it to be spent
Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
Chester Lee Grauberger #133347
MN Correctional Facility-Stillwater
970 Picket Street North
Bayport, MN 55003
© 2004 Justice Denied