DNA test clears Superior teen of sexual-assault charges

A Superior teen said today he holds no grudge against the woman who accused him of breaking into her home in July and sexually assaulting her at gunpoint.

Andrew Lawrence
Andrew S. Lawrence, 17, was charged with burglary and sexual assault in August but Douglas County Assistant District Attorney Jim Boughner asked that both counts be dismissed today based on DNA testing. (Clint Austin /

A Superior teen said today he holds no grudge against the woman who accused him of breaking into her home in July and sexually assaulting her at gunpoint.

Andrew S. Lawrence, 17, spoke to the News Tribune six hours after felony charges of sexual assault and burglary against him were dropped in Douglas County Court, a move prompted by the results of DNA tests.

"I don't really expect people to apologize," said Lawrence, a high school senior with no criminal background. "The police were just doing their jobs and I don't know her (the victim's) story. ... If she did get sexually assaulted I feel bad, but it wasn't me."

During an arraignment today, Assistant District Attorney Jim Boughner asked that both counts be dismissed because of a lack of evidence.

"Potential evidence recovered from the crime scene, as well as possible evidence obtained during the search warrant was sent to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab for analysis," according to a statement issued Friday afternoon by Superior police Captain Chad La Lor, investigations division commander. "DNA analysis failed to conclusively link Lawrence to this sexual assault or burglary.


"The burden of proof for arrest and initial charging," La Lor said, "is 'probable cause,' which is far below 'proof beyond a reasonable doubt,' which is the burden of proof required for conviction."

Lawrence and his mother, Rita Bergstrom, said they became emotional in court when Judge Kelly Thimm declared the charges dismissed.

"Both of us had a surprised look on our faces and then kind of busted out in tears," Lawrence said.

Lawrence and his family have suffered in the months following the accusation, they said. Lawrence has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of police interrogation and spending several days in jail. When he started his senior year at Superior High School this fall, he found it hard to ignore the rumors and talk surrounding his case and chose to finish school off-campus.

"I changed quite a bit between August and now," he said. "I was depressed, stressed out ... had to see a therapist for a while. But I just sat down one day and thought about things and realized that it's easier to be pissed off, but I didn't want to be mad all the time."

"This has been a horrible nightmare," Bergstrom said. "This has cost this family a lot and should not have been pursued as diligently as it was with no proof."

A Superior woman reported July 31 that a man had entered her home and sexually assaulted her at gunpoint, according to the criminal complaint against Lawrence. At first she said the assault occurred July 13, but later said it must have been July 20 after seeing a listing of her cell phone calls on those two days, the complaint said.

The woman told police the man threatened to kill her and her family and that she heard someone else in her home at the same time as her attacker. She told police she recognized her attacker as someone she had seen in the neighborhood, the complaint said.


Several days later, the woman called 911 and said she had seen her attacker talking to a police officer in a specific location, according to the complaint. The officer made the connection to Lawrence, and he was arrested. The complaint does not say that the woman identified Lawrence as her attacker after his arrest.

Lawrence was charged with burglary of a building or dwelling and first-degree sexual assault.

There were identification issues from the beginning of the case, Boughner told Judge Thimm.

Those were highlighted by Lawrence's attorney, Stephen Zuber, during a preliminary hearing in September. The woman initially gave police the wrong name for the attacker.

The woman testified that she knew the attacker by sight but not by name, so she asked one of her children for his name. Her child gave her the wrong name, she testified, but she later identified him by sight and called police.

La Lor said the case remains open and the investigation continues. He asked that anyone with information about the case contact the Superior Police Department.

Lawrence said today he was comforted by the swell of support from family and friends. One of those friends, Vincent King, set up a Facebook page called "Free Andrew Lawrence" that garnered 374 supporters and donors who helped him post bail and pay legal costs.

"I had a whole bunch of people on my side," Lawrence said. "I went on there (Facebook) when I got home from court and thanked everybody who supported (me) and believed in me."


King said he knew Lawrence was innocent.

"Andy's loyal and trustworthy," King said. "He's a man of his word -- he always comes through on everything and I really like that about him. I've never even heard anyone talk bad about Andy."

King said when he found out the charges were dropped, it made his day, and that he believes Lawrence will recover.

"He'll definitely bounce back," he said. He's not someone who gets down too often, even though he's had hard times in his life. He's not going to let this knock him over."

Superior Telegram reporter Maria Lockwood contributed to this report.

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