On her 27th birthday in March of this year, Kelsey Imhof tried to replicate the violent vomiting, deleted memory and long-lasting sickness she experienced after she allegedly was raped a month before.
In her makeshift experiment, Imhof, a thin, petite woman, downed more than a dozen shots of liquor and finished more than a half-dozen beers. The next morning, she felt hungover but never blacked out.
On her February outing with co-workers, she drank a total of just 2½ drinks.
But the morning after, she woke up vomiting in a bathroom she didn’t recognize. She was naked, with bruises on her back, sides and legs. (A chiropractor later told her that he had seen survivors of rollover car crashes in better shape than she was in.) Her vagina and anus were sore and extremely painful.
The man whose home she found herself in belonged to now-former Waterloo volunteer firefighter Brandon Hanusek. Hanusek was in the same Steamfitters and Plumbers Local 464 union as Imhof, but she had met him only the previous night.
Authorities allege that Hanusek drugged her drink with a substance that led her to be incapacitated that night and then sexually assaulted her.
Hanusek, 27, faces up to 50 years in prison if he is convicted of first-degree sexual assault of a mentally or physically incompetent person. Neither he nor his attorney returned messages seeking comment.
The World-Herald doesn’t name victims or alleged victims of sexual assault unless the people agree to be named.
“Going through what I’ve gone through, I know exactly why people don’t come forward,” Imhof told The World-Herald. “And looking back at it, I don’t know if I would have, knowing what I know now. So if me coming forward gives anybody even just a little bit of strength to come forward, I feel like it’s my duty to do that.”
Imhof said she first crossed paths with Hanusek when he added her as a friend on Facebook and said he had a sticker for her work hard hat that she had been looking for. They made plans to meet at a bar on Feb. 26 after work with three other co-workers, one of whom was Imhof’s friend.
They went to Holiday Lounge near 79th Street and West Dodge Road.
Imhof said she told a Waterloo police investigator that at the bar, she drank half of the three mixed drinks she had ordered.
About an hour later, they headed to Harold’s Bar near 85th and Blondo streets — near Imhof’s house.
Hanusek, she said, bought a round of drinks for everyone. Shortly thereafter, she said, one of the co-workers realized he had left his credit card at Holiday Lounge. Imhof offered to return to the bar to retrieve it for him, and Hanusek offered to drive her.
“I remember as I was signing (the co-worker’s) name on the receipt (at Holiday Lounge), feeling out of nowhere I was starting to get really drunk or the alcohol was starting to hit,” Imhof said.
She returned to Harold’s and gave the card back to her co-worker. Then, she remembers sliding pucks on a shuffleboard table a few times.
A Harold’s bar worker later told a police investigator that she saw “the blonde girl” fall and asked if she was all right. A man with the group then said he had jokingly tripped her.
Imhof has no memory of that.
“Next thing I knew, I was mid-vomit, completely naked in a random bathroom,” she said.
She thinks the time was between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. She said she stayed in the bathroom for a couple of hours because she could hardly walk from her calf muscles locking up. She then left the bathroom, saw a man who she assumed was passed out on the couch and went to a bedroom, according to an affidavit.
She found her clothes and shoes and noticed that her long-sleeved shirt, T-shirt and sports bra were arranged in a strange way.
“Imhof stated all three items had been removed at one time from her body, leaving each layer of clothing connected to the next,” the affidavit said. “Imhof stated she would never remove her clothing in such a manner due to the tightness of the sports bra, and removing her clothes in such a manner is not something she does.”
She went back to the bathroom to vomit, then to the bedroom again to try to rest. But every five or 10 minutes, she felt the need to return to the bathroom to throw up. Imhof said this continued until about 2 p.m. that day.
When she finally felt better, she dressed and went to talk to Hanusek. She said that when she asked him what had happened the previous night, he laughed and said he couldn’t remember, either. He told her, however, that he did remember driving her to her home, but said she was locked out of her house and the garage code did not work.
Imhof later told the investigator that it’s impossible for her to be locked out — she kept her front door unlocked — and she doesn’t have a keypad to access the garage.
After Hanusek drove her back to her pickup truck, which was parked at Harold’s Bar, she went to her home and entered through her unlocked front door. (She noted that she locks her door now.)
Imhof said she went inside her bathroom and started to draw a bath, but ultimately never bathed or showered. When her sister called her, she broke down crying.
Her sister told her to go to the hospital. Imhof then drove to Methodist Hospital, which is nearby. After about a half-hour of sitting in her car, she went inside and completed a sexual assault exam and provided urine to be tested for the presence of a date rape drug.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine declined to provide specifics about the case because it is pending, but said that Imhof was affected by alcohol and a substance possibly put into her drink.
“The person isn’t capable of consenting because she was incapacitated — she was physically incapable of resisting,” Kleine said.
A Waterloo police investigator spoke to Hanusek, who said he drank six mixed drinks and six shots at the first bar. He said he remembered taking Imhof to grab the credit card but nothing else at the second bar. He told the investigator he parked in Imhof’s driveway and waited for her to open her garage door via a keypad and leaned against a retaining wall.
The investigator said in the affidavit that Imhof did not have a garage door keypad and noted that a retaining wall on the left side of the garage is very low and not high enough for someone to lean against.
Hanusek said he likely thought Imhof was too intoxicated to drive and offered that she “sleep in his bed” because she couldn’t get into her home, the affidavit said.
Hanusek voluntarily allowed his cheeks to be swabbed for DNA.
The results from Imhof’s hospital exam, returned about two months later, showed that Hanusek’s DNA was present on several genital, cervical and anal swabs taken from Imhof.
Hanusek was charged in late May. He was arrested eight days later by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, on June 4. He posted $2,500, or 10% of his $25,000 bail, and was released from jail later that day. His next hearing is scheduled for November.
Waterloo Volunteer Fire Department Chief Travis Harlow said in an interview that he was aware before May that police were investigating Hanusek, but he didn’t place Hanusek on administrative leave until after he was charged with first-degree sexual assault.
Harlow estimated that Hanusek has been with the department as a firefighter for about six or seven years. Hanusek has not had nor will he have any access to the fire station until the case is resolved, depending on the outcome, Harlow said.
Sexual assault “is obviously not tolerated or condoned or represents the Waterloo Fire Department in any manner whatsoever,” Harlow said. “It’s a bad situation all around, and we hope that the courts do justice.”
Hanusek faced a hearing within the Local 464 union relating to the alleged sexual assault and was found to have violated parts of the union’s constitution and bylaws. The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry recently affirmed the local’s finding and punishment of expulsion and $50,000 fine for Hanusek, according to a letter from the general secretary-treasurer of the national group.
Imhof said she wants Hanusek to be held accountable for his actions.
“The only way for sure that he won’t do it again is if he goes to jail,” Imhof said. “If there’s other people that have had this happen to them, if me coming out can give them the courage to come out as well, I want to do that.”