Huss, a rapist and killer, freed by jury that decides he’s no longer a threat

Sex predator label rejected; ‘God help us all,’ a victim says

By JEFF ECKHOFF
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
May 26, 2005

Loren Huss, a 42-year-old rapist and killer, walked out of jail a free
man Wednesday when a Polk County jury ruled he is no longer a danger to
the public.

Jurors deliberated one day before they ended Huss’ 19 years in state
custody and declared he is not a sexually violent predator who needs to
be confined in a state treatment program.

A stunned Huss and his lawyers smiled Wednesday when the decision was
read.

His family, apparently shellshocked, stood outside the courtroom and
declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Dorothy Wallace paced and shook her head.

“It’s a sad verdict,” said Wallace, whom Huss robbed, beat and left
partially naked on an east Des Moines parking lot in 1980.

“They turned a rapist and a murderer loose today,” Wallace said. “God
help us all. . . . Every woman in this town is in danger.”

Huss, convicted of robbery for the attack on Wallace, blamed the incident
on a combination of alcohol, drugs, immature behavior and a bad attitude
toward women. He cited mostly the same reasons for his role in the gang
rape of a young woman near Saylorville Lake the following year.

But Huss testified last week, and psychiatrists confirmed, that his
attitude had improved by the time he left prison in 1984.

By 1986, Huss was living with Marilyn Sheets in a Des Moines apartment.
He says he began to get messages from the radio and television that urged
him to fight the devil.

Defense-paid psychiatrists testified at his seven-day trial that Huss
suffered a psychotic delusion and was in the manic state of bipolar
disorder when he attacked Sheets on May 19, 1986.

Huss said he attempted to get the devil out of Sheets when he beat her to
death, gouged out her eyes, bit off her nose and wrote on the walls in
her blood.

When police found him with Sheets’ naked body in a mostly demolished
apartment, Huss was shouting and jumping up and down. It took five
officers to subdue him.

Huss was convicted of first-degree murder in 1987, but a federal appeals
court later awarded him a new trial. He was found not guilty by reason of
insanity in 2001.

Two years later, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Huss, who had shown no
symptoms of the bipolar disorder since 1986, was not dangerous and could
no longer be held for mental treatment. By then, state prosecutors had
filed papers to hold him indefinitely as a sexual predator.

Lawyers with the Iowa attorney general’s office argued to the end that
Sheets’ murder was a sexually motivated crime. State-paid psychiatrists
insisted last week that Huss remains dangerously attracted to
nonconsensual sex and is more likely than not to reoffend.

“The state obviously is disappointed,” said Doug Hammerand, an assistant
attorney general. “But that’s why we leave these cases to a jury to
decide. We have to respect their decision.”

Huss, through his lawyers, declined to comment Wednesday.

Doctors testified during the trial that Huss plans to move in with his
mother and sister for the time being in the Des Moines area. Through
prison classes, Huss has accumulated more than 50 hours of college credit
at the University of Iowa and has said he intends to work toward a
degree, probably at Iowa State University.

Huss told jurors that he intends to do “whatever is necessary to keep
everybody safe,” but as of last week he had not settled on a long-term
medication plan to keep the bipolar disorder at bay. He said he plans to
continue work with a doctor.

“He can do whatever he wants,” Hammerand said. “He can see different
groups and different doctors. But that’s entirely up to him.

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