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Article Launched: 08/16/2008 01:27:20 AM PDT
Former Blue Lake Police Chief David Gundersen’s wife testified Friday that her desire to have her husband out of her life prompted her to lie about being raped to investigators on the day of his arrest.
Under questioning by Gundersen’s defense attorney Russell Clanton, Darcie Seal said she had no idea why she was called to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 8, but in hindsight believes it was part of a plot by Gundersen’s ex-wife to get him to leave the county and secure full custody of their children.
”Did you think at the time if David Gundersen could be taken from your life … things would be better?”
”Yeah,” Seal answered.
Gundersen faces 24 counts of spousal rape with the use of an intoxicant, violation of a court order, dissuading a witness of a crime and possession of illegal firearms. He is in custody on $1.25 million bail. The charges stem from Seal’s Feb. 8 interview by investigators, in which she told them that over the course of years she’d been repeatedly raped by Gundersen while she slept.
Seal, a former Blue Lake police sergeant, has since recanted her statements, and told the court that she lied to investigators and during a preliminary hearing.
”I didn’t think it was at all serious,” Seal said of the February interview, despite the fact that she was being questioned by three senior members of law enforcement.
Seal, who has asked the Times-Standard and the court to refer to her by her real name, said she believed that Gundersen’s ex-wife had set up the interview with the intention of forcing him to leave the county, and win custody of their two children. She never thought what she told investigators would lead to Gundersen’s arrest, Seal said.
During the videotaped interview seen by the jury earlier this week, Seal claims Gundersen raped her and photographed her naked without her consent while she was sleeping, and when confronted, didn’t stop the practice. In court, Clanton asked her why she said that.
”How did that come to be, Darcie?” Clanton said.
”I don’t know,” Seal answered.
Seal also said that she was at an emotional and mental low point at the time, and that her recollection of the events of that February day were fuzzy. She said that her efforts to find the nude photographs on Gundersen’s laptop hard drive were unsuccessful, and that Gundersen’s ex-wife — who works at the McKinleyville sheriff’s substation — offered to help retrieve them.
Seal said she didn’t want to refuse the offer, in order to keep up an amiable relationship with her. She took the hard drive to the substation on the morning of Feb. 8, Seal said.
When she arrived, Seal said, Gundersen’s ex-wife — whom she’d told about the photos — asked if she wanted to speak with Lt. Dave Morey. Seal testified that she talked to Morey for a few minutes and asked only that the sheriff’s office be prepared for an “appropriate police response” if she and David Gundersen got in a fight.
Seal said she then left the station for an appointment with her therapist. After the session, she got a text message on her phone telling her to call Morey as soon as possible. When called, Morey asked Seal to come to the Eureka station.
Seal said she believed she was going to the station to further discuss a police response, and ended up at the station from 12:30 to 7 p.m. After about an hour and a half — during which she made the claims about the alleged rapes — she was taken by Detective Troy Garey to have her blood drawn, then returned to the interview room.
Seal then testified that she became concerned about how things were proceeding.
”I said ‘This is going too far,’ and I told them about (the ex-wife’s) phone call on Jan. 28,” Seal testified.
Seal said that during that phone call Gundersen’s ex-wife said her family law attorney Joan Gallegos — wife of District Attorney Paul Gallegos — said charges would be filed if his ex-wife wanted. Seal testified that she asked for Gundersen’s ex-wife to come to the interview room to explain that.
”I told them it was about getting Dave to move,” Seal said. “I never thought it was going to end up in Dave’s arrest.”
As she has since the trial began early this week, Seal testified that she lied about the alleged rapes, and claimed she’d never been a victim of nonconsensual sex by her husband. She did say that her relationship with David Gundersen was extremely strained, especially after their marriage in 2005. Gundersen worked long hours and Seal said she had to care for his children and her own son.
”There was so much going on that I felt abandoned,” Seal said.
In January 2006, Seal testified, she was prescribed the sleep aid Lunesta, the antidepressant Prozac and the anti-anxiety drug Klonopin to help her with stress. She began taking sometimes weeks off work. She only infrequently took Lunesta during 2006 and 2007, and testified the effects of it were “light.” She said it was unlikely Gundersen knew when she was taking the drug, and that she never had nonconsensual sex with him while under its influence.
”It wasn’t like I was advertising I was taking it,” Seal said.
But as her relationship with Gundersen continued to sour, Seal said, she began taking Lunesta more often. She also began taking more Klonopin than she was prescribed, admitting to abusing the drug, which she said helped quell her panic attacks.
”How would you describe your emotional well-being during 2007, Darcie?” Clanton asked.
”I was a mess,” she answered.
The trial is on break until Aug. 25.
John Driscoll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 441-0504.