Authorities thought they had a mountain of rock-solid evidence against 51-year-old Dean Melvin Rieck.
PORTLAND — Authorities thought they had a mountain of rock-solid evidence against 51-year-old Dean Melvin Rieck. A 20-year-old woman told police a man later identified as Rieck had driven her from southeast Portland to a wooded location in rural Washington County at gunpoint, bound her with duct tape, took nude photos of her and raped her during an overnight ordeal.
Police tracked down the pickup — just as the woman had described — and found a revolver, duct tape and nude digital photos of the woman. The woman said Rieck had driven her to a Winco on Southeast 82nd Avenue with a plan to force her to panhandle for him, and police found store surveillance video showing the woman running away and Rieck chasing her.
As investigators delved into Rieck's record, they discovered he'd spent most of his life in prison for a long list of crimes that included binding a 15-year-old girl, driving her to the woods and repeatedly raping her.
But Tuesday — nearly three years after Rieck's arrest — a prosecutor agreed to dismiss the kidnapping, rape and sexual abuse charges and within days, Rieck will walk out of custody a free man.
"I have in my career come across instances in which someone made false accusations of sexual assault," said Deputy District Attorney Greg Moawad. "But law enforcement is usually good at sniffing out those false accusations." What made this case different, Moawad said, was the woman was very believable. "When she told us something happened, we were able to corroborate it."
"Frankly, I credit his lawyer with putting together a case that she was being dishonest," Moawad said.
Court-appointed defense attorney Deborah Burdzik and her investigator discovered the woman had reported an almost identical story in 2006 — a man in a pickup grabbed her by the belt loop — but that time, she said she got away. In 2007, a Winco security guard accused her of shoplifting and reportedly found heroin on her. She told the security guard she'd accuse him of sexually assaulting her if he turned her in.
The woman also had a history of lying to police, Moawad said.
He said all the evidence against Rieck also supported the defense's argument that the woman was a prostitute, and she'd willingly gone with Rieck to the woods, where she'd posed for the naked photos.
Also slightly suspicious to investigators was the timing of her complaint. Two days after the purported rape, the woman reported it just as it appeared Portland police were about to arrest her. They had stopped her because they believed she was a prostitute, and found she had a warrant.
Police dropped the investigation into the prostitution charge, and began investigating Rieck.
What's more, the woman has disappeared, and authorities haven't been able to question her about the evidence piling up against her accusations.
Rieck passed two lie-detector tests. Although inadmissible in court, it was enough to convince Moawad that he no longer had a case.
But Moawad doesn't plan on charging the woman with initiating a false report.
That's a relief to Erin Ellis, executive director of the metro area Sexual Assault Resource Center. Ellis acknowledged the different role prosecutors play, and she understands why Moawad decided to drop the case. But Ellis said she believes the woman may have been telling the truth.
Ellis said that a woman might be a prostitute and have a history of lying to police but that doesn't mean she's making up a story of rape.
The woman might have disappeared not because she lied about the kidnapping and rape, but because of other dire circumstances in her life, Ellis said, such as an angry pimp.
"We believe," Ellis said of SARC's role. "Survivors always need a place to go to to be believed and protected and receive whatever resources they need."
Rieck didn't express any emotion when Multnomah County Circuit Judge Julie Frantz dismissed a slew of charges against him Tuesday. She convicted him of the one charge left standing, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and sentenced him to 21/2; years behind bars, which he's already served.
Rieck — who previously had faced the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison if convicted — is expected to be released some time next month.