William Hetherington

Genesee County, Michigan
Date of Alleged Crime:  September 24, 1985

William J. “Wil” Hetherington was convicted of raping his wife, Linda. Previous to the passage of a new Michigan law, a husband could be convicted of assaulting his wife, but not raping her, as consent to sex was viewed a part of the marriage contract. The new rape law only applied to married couples who lived separately. A divorce court had frozen all Hetherington's assets so he had no money to hire a lawyer or make bond. Nevertheless, the criminal court ruled that he was not indigent and refused to provide him with a lawyer. There was no physical evidence. A pelvic examination of Linda at a hospital three hours after the alleged offense showed no evidence of injury or forced penetration. The examining doctor described the lack of evidence as “very unusual.”

Prior to trial Hetherington was offered a plea deal that would have allowed him to be released immediately with the 11 months he served in jail constituting his sentence. He refused the deal because he insisted he was innocent. At trial, Hetherington said the sex he had with Linda was consensual, but Linda said it was rape. The judge used Michigan's Rape Shield Law to prohibit cross-examination of Linda. It could not be brought up that Linda was practiced in the filing of rape charges, as she had filed them twice before against him, conveniently at times when she faced losing custody of her children. Linda's story mentioned physical evidence such as packaging tape, a rubber ball, a lighter, and the utility gloves, but none of this evidence was ever found. At a preliminary hearing, Linda said Hetherington had stripped her prior to forcing her to perform oral sex, while at trial she insisted she was fully clothed. A neighbor, Adolph Reinhardt, corroborated key parts of Hetherington's story.

Two police officers testified that they saw tape marks on Linda's face that appeared to support her story that Hetherington bound her. However, photographs taken of Linda after the alleged attack were not disclosed to his defense until a decade his conviction. They were subsequently analyzed by John Valor, a forensic photographer who testified against serial killer Ted Bundy. According to Valor's sworn statement, the photos of Linda showed no scratches, tape marks or abnormalities of any kind, and that marks would have been clearly visible if there had been any.

The sentencing guidelines for the new offense was 12 months to 10 years, but without showing cause, Judge Thomas Yeotis sentenced Hetherington to 15 to 30 years in prison. He had offered Hetherington a plea deal prior to trial and may have been irritated that Hetherington had refused to accept it. Linda walked away with custody of their three daughters, the marital home, and all marital assets.

For years Hetherington could not appeal his conviction as he was unable to buy a transcript of his trial proceedings. In 1993 a volunteer group raised the necessary $3,000 to buy one. Hetherington's parole board received an unsolicited letter from Melissa Anne Suchy, who had been employed by Linda as a babysitter. Suchy wrote that Linda told her she made up the rape story because she was then pregnant with her boyfriend's baby, and he pushed her to press rape charges, saying that she would have to “get rid of Hetherington or he wouldn't take care of the baby.” As of 2006, Hetherington has been incarcerated for more than twenty years.  [1/09]


References:  Insight, Eagle Forum

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Michigan Cases, Fabricated Rapes