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May 14, 2003

Deaf man accused of raping toddler

From: Jackson Sun, TN - May 14, 2003

By RACHAEL MYER May 14 2003

An 18-year-old man accused of raping a preschool-age relative will appear in court on Thursday.

Brandon Thygesen, of Tenn. 186 in Gibson, is charged with two counts of raping a child. If found guilty of the Class A felony, he could receive 10 to 15 years in prison.

His first appearance will be held at 9 a.m. in Crockett County General Sessions Court on Thursday.

Thygesen watched his relative on Friday night in Gadsden while her parents went next door briefly to a neighbor's house, officials said. He is accused of taking the toddler into the bathroom and raping her.

"He gave a total confession," said Penny Curtis, a Crockett County Sheriff Department investigator.

Thygesen is deaf but uses sign language, reads lips and writes, Curtis said. He also talks although it isn't always understandable, she said. An interpreter is helping Thygesen communicate with investigators.

He attends the School for the Deaf in Knoxville. Thygesen usually stays with his grandmother in Gibson on weekends because the school closes, Curtis said.

General Sessions Judge Shannon Jones arraigned Thygesen on Monday. The public defender's office will be handling Thygesen's defense, Curtis said. Jones released Thygesen on his own recognizance with the condition that he return to school to graduate, she said.

The school would not let him return so Thygesen's grandmother is watching him until Thursday, when a bond is expected to be set, Curtis said. The school will mail his diploma to him.

Curtis is looking for a facility to house him since he is deaf and is accused of a sexual violation, she said. Thygesen doesn't have any previous charges, Curtis said.

Alan J. Mealka, Tennessee School for the Deaf superintendent, said he couldn't confirm if Thygesen is a student because of privacy laws.

However, he said in circumstances when a student is accused of a felony, Tennessee law allows school officials to refuse to let a student return if they believe he could pose a danger to other children.

"We would take whatever action necessary to protect the students," Mealka said.

The school provides preschool through high school education to about 200 students, ages 3 to 22. It is the only school in Tennessee that provides a high school education exclusively for deaf students, he said.

Most of the students have a severe loss of hearing, he said.

Copyright 2003 The Jackson Sun