In rare case, man convicted of raping daughter in Wyoming--25 years later

December 16, 1990|By Los Angeles Times

In an unusual case that could not have been prosecuted in most states, the father of a 38-year-old Los Angeles woman has been convicted in Wyoming of raping his daughter and niece more than 25 years ago.

Prompted by psychological counseling, Lorretta Woodbury contacted Wyoming authorities in January and asked them to prosecute her father, Lloyd Calvin Woodbury, for sexually molesting her and a cousin in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

As a result of the woman's efforts, Lloyd Woodbury was charged in August with five felony sexual abuse counts in connection with assaults on Ms. Woodbury, his niece and a third girl -- also a niece -- whose alleged molestation came to light after Wyoming authorities began an investigation.

Wyoming authorities believe that the case is one of the oldest non-murder cases in that state and probably in the United States. Filing the case was possible because Wyoming, unlike most other states, has no statute of limitations on criminal cases, officials said.

In California, the statute of limitations ranges from two to six years for all crimes except murder, which has no time limit, authorities said.

Now 73 and living in Ingram, Texas, Lloyd Woodbury pleaded guilty Nov. 28 in Carbon County, Wyoming, to having raped his 10-year-old daughter in the summer of 1962 and his 13-year-old niece in the summer of 1958.

As part of a plea bargain, prosecutors dropped additional accusations that Woodbury took "indecent liberties" with an 8-year-old niece in 1958 and counts involving assaults on his daughter in 1959 and 1965.

Wyoming 2nd Judicial District Court Judge Larry Lehman sentenced Woodbury, a retired taxidermist and bronze sculptor, to fiveyears probation and ordered him to undergo counseling and avoid contact with the three victims. Woodbury also must avoid being around children unless another adult is present, said Carbon County Prosecuting Attorney Kurt Kelly.

The assaults occurred in Rawlins, a city of 8,000 people in south-central Wyoming where the family lived at the time, said Lorretta Woodbury, a free-lance commercial artist.

Ms. Woodbury said that psychological counseling she received at the Valley Trauma Center at California State University in Los Angeles made her decide to try to have her father prosecuted so many years after the fact.

"I never dreamed for five minutes that they would do anything with it," she said in a telephone interview. "Basically what I was doing was venting.

"Instead of keeping all this stuff to myself and letting myself be a victim, I was starting to say I am not going to keep quiet anymore," she said.

Mr. Kelly at first told Ms. Woodbury that it would be practically impossible to find enough evidence to prosecute so old a case. Undeterred, Ms. Woodbury provided more details, persuading Mr. Kelly to turn the case over to the Carbon County Sheriff's Department.

Although decades had passed, investigators emerged with what Mr. Kelly considered to be strong evidence: All three victims independently told similar stories, corroborating each other.

Lloyd Woodbury, interviewed by phone from Texas, said that he waived extradition and pleaded guilty to the charges "to keep from going to court." He denied raping his daughter or his nieces.

"I had relations with one of the friends but there was no rape to it. Just sexual relations," Woodbury said.

Born in Casper, Wyo., to parents who soon divorced, Ms. Woodbury lived with her mother and on a welfare ranch before being sent to live with her father and stepmother at age 7.

According to Ms. Woodbury, the abuse started almost immediately and escalated on her 10th birthday. Ms. Woodbury said that she remembers her father assaulting her in his truck parked outside town and then taking her home for a birthday cake with candles.

Her father threatened to send her to reform school if she told anyone.

The abuse continued seven years, she said.

It ended after Ms. Woodbury's stepsister came to visit, and Woodbury wrote a note to her mother detailing the sexual abuse, sewing it into her sister's coat, she recalled.

Social workers removed the 14-year-old girl from the home a few weeks later, but her father was never prosecuted. Authorities in Wyoming said that law enforcement officials were more reluctant 30 years ago to prosecute such cases.

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