Wyoming Family May Never Get Justice For Abused 14-Month-Old Son

A Wyoming couple has been waiting for justice after their 14-month-old toddler was allegedly beaten at a Hot Springs County ranch. Their wait may never come to an end because of the inherent challenges of proving a crime even happened.

Jen Kocher

June 16, 20249 min read

Reatta Grywusiewicz and Rich Wetsch have moved to Montana since an alleged child abuse incident with their 14-month-old son.
Reatta Grywusiewicz and Rich Wetsch have moved to Montana since an alleged child abuse incident with their 14-month-old son. (Courtesy Photo)

For more than six months, Reatta Grywusiewicz and Rich Wetsch have been patiently waiting for justice after their 14-month-old toddler, who was allegedly beaten at a Hot Springs County ranch.

And it appears their wait may never come to an end because of the inherent challenges of proving a crime even happened in the absence of concrete evidence against someone so young.

The central Wyoming couple isn’t alone in their wait for justice.

Law enforcement says abuse of very young children, a particularly heinous crime that evokes strong emotions, is frustratingly difficult to prove with no witnesses and a non-verbal victim, highlighting the challenges in handling those cases.

In the middle of this case are four people who are pointing fingers at one another and a boy who cannot speak for himself.

This reality does nothing to assuage the parents and family who believe it’s only right that their son receives due justice for the alleged abuse that also cost them their jobs and housing because they refused to work alongside the man who they believe hurt their son.

The Argument

The alleged incident occurred on a ranch in Hot Springs County in early December 2023, where both Grywusiewicz and Wetsch were employed as ranch hands.

Cowboy State Daily is purposefully not naming the ranch or alleged perpetrators because they have not been charged with a crime and deny the allegations.

The couple told Cowboy State Daily that they worked with the alleged perpetrator while his wife was paid to babysit their 14-month-son.

Grywusiewicz said she went to pick up her son from the main office where the babysitter was with the boy. When Grywusiewicz took him from the babysitter, the babysitter explained that she and her husband had just been in a heated argument that had exploded from the house into the front yard.

It was so bad, Grywusiewicz said, that the babysitter had to flee the home with the boy, nearly running over her husband in the process, and go to the office for safety.

The man was going to kill her, the babysitter allegedly told Grywusiewicz before escaping.

The boy was unusually quiet following the incident, but Grywusiewicz didn’t think anything of it until she went to change his diaper and noticed severe bruising on both his lower back and buttocks.

She then messaged the babysitter for an explanation, who told her that she had no idea what she was talking about.

Grywusiewicz now believes that her son got in the middle of the fight and took the brunt of the man’s anger toward his wife.

For her part, the babysitter told Cowboy State Daily a very different story. She said that there was no fight that day between she and her husband, and that the boy had showed up that day with a bruise on his right temple and what looked like a red rash on his bottom.

She also described the couple as neglectful parents in general and said that they were blaming her husband because they were not good workers and the husband had been planning on firing them.

Both the babysitter and her husband maintain that nothing happened.

Hot Springs County Sheriff Jerimie Kraushaar confirmed the incident and those involved, which he said remains under investigation.

Medical Exam

Once the couple saw the bruising, they immediately rushed the boy to SageWest Health Care in Lander to make sure there was no internal or cognitive damage beyond the bruising.

The attending physician did not find any additional injuries, but noted the extensive “blue, purple, red and yellow” bruising on the boy’s “buttocks and low back … (was) very concerning for inflicted trauma (child physical abuse),” according to the medical record shared by Grywusiewicz.

The physician notified law enforcement and the Department of Family Services (DFS) per protocol, but stated in the report that the incident did not meet the threshold for putting the boy into protective custody based on history and her exam, as well as her discussion with law enforcement.

The couple was then interviewed by law enforcement and DFS, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was initially called in based on jurisdictional claims. Grywusiewicz said the FBI asked them to take a lie detector test to which they agreed, but that the FBI never followed up on that.

Vikki Migoya, public affairs officer for the FBI, confirmed that the agency had been involved but eventually determined it fell within Hot Spring County jurisdiction. She declined to provide any additional details.

Covering For Her Husband?

Following the incident, Grywusiewicz and Wetsch asked their supervisor if they could work with another co-employee in different jobs. In the end, they were told by the supervisor that he understood why they couldn’t work with the man anymore, but he couldn’t grant their requests, and said in a text message that he considered it a personal, not a ranch, issue.

In the end, the couple returned to Wetsch’s family ranch in Montana.

The alleged perpetrator is also no longer employed at the Wyoming ranch, per a spokesperson, who declined to say whether he was fired or left on his own, or if his leaving had anything to do with the abuse allegations.

Grywusiewicz does not blame the babysitter for the abuse suffered by her young son. In fact, prior to this incident, Grywusiewicz was very pleased with the babysitter who watched both of her boys off and on for about seven months.

“She treated my children like her own,” Grywusiewicz said.

She blames her only for what she feels is covering up for her husband. As a domestic abuse survivor, Grywusiewicz understands how that trauma and abuse works. She wishes differently.

Burden Of Proof

Dan Fetsco sympathizes with the sheriff’s office in prosecuting cases such as this one.

The trouble is a lack of evidence, Fetsco said. He’s seen the law from all angles as a former public defender, Carbon County prosecutor and executive director for the Wyoming Board of Parole.

He’s now a faculty member of the Criminal Justice Program at the University of Wyoming.

These cases are complicated, Fetsco said. Given that the child was non-verbal, he said it’s pretty much impossible to prove a case without other eyewitness testimony or a confession. He said the child’s own words would have provided valuable evidence.

“As prosecutor, that would matter to me, even if the child is a young child,” he said in an email to Cowboy State Daily.

Frank Groth also experienced these types of cases during his tenure as a police officer and detective for both the Department of Defense Housing Facility and Napa Valley Railroad in northern California.

“The key here is evidence wins,” Groth said, who’s now retired and lives in Wyoming.

In the absence of concrete evidence such as fingerprints or eyewitnesses, particularly in a case like this one where spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other, it’s much trickier, he said.

“It’s just as important to eliminate someone from suspicion as it is to find the guilty person,” he said.

At the same time, he understands small, cash-strapped departments have to make hard decisions about whether there’s enough evidence to trudge on to present to a county attorney, who ultimately makes the final call on whether charges will be brought.

“It’s about serving the process of justice,” he said. “You can suspect a crime was committed, but if you can’t prove it, then it’s really hard to go forward.”

But not impossible with a lot of groundwork and subsequent interviews, particularly now that the alleged perpetrator is no longer employed at the ranch, he added.

Waiting For Justice

Ed Grywusiewicz, the boy’s grandfather, is determined that the alleged preparator be held accountable for the pain he allegedly inflicted on his grandson. In his mind, a crime was committed and someone needs to pay.

He regularly calls both the sheriff and county attorney for updates and said he has no plans to stop pushing for justice.

His daughter, likewise, would like to see justice for her son, but more so considers the man dangerous.

“Honestly, I’ve lost my faith in the law to prevail,” she said, “but I think it’s important because I don’t want to see this happen to anyone else who might be working with him or for him.”

The Boy In The Middle

It’s unclear how the abuse has impacted her youngest son. Initially, he was spooked around men, including his own father. Prior to this, she said, he was a happy little boy who smiled at everyone.

“It took him a long time to be OK with Rich, and he’s still scared around strange men,” she said.

Child abuse incidents such as this one may have long-term impacts on the boy’s development, according to Amanda DeDiego, a licensed professional counselor and associate professor of counseling at the University of Wyoming.

This type of violence and abuse is considered to be an adverse childhood experience (ACE), which can impact children as young as infants.

“The impacts of childhood trauma can last through adulthood. Growing up in high stress environments, which might be represented by ACEs, has been shown to increase risk of mental health issues and physical health issues later in life,” she said in an email to Cowboy State Daily.

These developmental impacts may include decreased immunity, difficulty paying attention and challenges in learning new things. It can also impact children's ability to develop healthy attachment with others, she noted.

That said, DeDiego said the risks can be mitigated with early prevention and parental support as well as positive childhood experiences (PCE) to counteract the negative.

“Children who experience trauma, but have PCEs following that trauma, are more resilient and experience fewer adverse mental and physical health issues as the navigate development to adulthood,” she said.

For now, they’ll continue to wait to see who, if anyone, will be held accountable for the pain inflicted on their son.

Jen Kocher can be reached at jen@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Jen Kocher

Features, Investigative Reporter