Charges dropped against Mirko Ceska
The allegations of sexual abuse gained international attention in 2019, but case presented problems for prosecution
By WILLIAM SNOWDEN Editor
Felony charges against Mirko Ceska were dropped by the state attorney’s office after determining there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute.
The Wakulla case garnered national and even international attention about “doomsday preppers” – Ceska and wife Regina – who were abusing twin foster daughters. One of the girls alleged she was sexually abused by Mirko Ceska. Both girls claimed they were treated as farm labor, beaten, and escaped from the Ceska home.
Ceska was arrested and charged in July 2019 with sexual battery, sexual assault, and neglect for alleged abuse of the girls. Regina Ceska was arrested and charged with two counts of neglect and two counts of failure to report abuse, but those charges were dropped within a month of being filed.
Former Wakulla Chief Prosecutor Brian Miller, now county judge, drafted a memo before leaving office at the end of the year on why the charges against Mirko Ceska were being dropped, but didn’t have time for State Attorney Jack Campbell to review it. The memo was subsequently filed by Miller’s replacement, Wakulla Chief Prosecutor Jon Fuchs on Jan. 18.
Defense attorney Don Pumphrey said the case ruined the lives of the Ceskas. He said when he called Ceska to let him know the charges were being dropped, “He was very emotional, and so was his wife.”
Pumphrey praised State Attorney Jack Campbell, Miller and Fuchs for dropping the case, along with praise for co-counsel Fred Conrad, who initially represented Regina Ceska and then came on board to represent Mirko Ceska.
In the seven-page memo filed by the state attorney’s office dropping the charges, it was noted that the Ceskas were arrested without an arrest warrant back in July 2019 as the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office “appeared to make their decision to arrest (Ceska) without a warrant due to concerns for the safety of the victim, (Name redacted), and her twin sister, (Name redacted).”
The case garnered extensive media attention, but the memo notes that subsequent investigation revealed that “the reality of the case bore little resemblence to the initial reports. For example, there were initial reports that the defendant and his wife were some sort of ‘doomsday prepper’ couple due to the presence of multiple firearms and some meals-ready-to-eat (MREs).” The memo notes that Wakulla County is rural and it is not uncommon in rural communities for people to chose to possess multiple firearms or to have food, sometimes in the form of MREs, in case of emergencies.
The memo notes that initial reports said there was possible child abuse.
“While there may have been sufficient evidence of child abuse at one point, (the alleged victims) were over the age of 21 when (the Ceskas) were arrested. The statute of limitations for any act of child abuse... is three years.” Additionally, the memo notes that (Ceska) and his wife recorded some of their disciplinary measures on (the sisters)... The defendant yelled at (the sisters) but did not beat them.” One incident the girls were punished for was stealing candy from their grandmother and then lying about it. That behavior appeared to be prevalent with the girls – stealing and lying – and the Ceskas meted out punishment “that some might consider excessive, but not necessarily criminal, but also bring (the girls’) credibility into question as regards the serious offenses in this case.”
None of the evidence seized of photos and videos constituted child pornography, as it was referred to in the probable cause affidavit and property receipts.
There were also reports that the sisters were forced into labor at a plant nursery in the county. But subsequent investigation determined that the sisters had accompanied the Ceskas to the nursery and, while there, began to pick weeds. One of the owners saw this and offered to pay them if they wanted to weed and help out in other ways at the nursery. After they began working at the nursery, the sisters told co-workers about the “difficult, but not necessarily criminal” treatment by the Ceskas, and the nursery workers assisted the girls in leaving.
The memo notes that the girls did have traumatic childhoods that included sexual and physical abuse in another home. It was initially reported that the girls were intellectually disabled adults, but an evaluation by the state determined they were not disabled but reacted as survivors of abuse. Actually, evaluation of the girls showed they had higher than average scores in Math and could speak German with the Ceskas. The doctor examining the girls determined they were socially developmentally delayed but that could be remedied by proper socialization.
The girls were reunited with other siblings and now live in another state.
To Pumphrey, the case serves as a reminder to the public that just because someone is charged with crime does not mean they’re guilty. The Ceskas, he said, were innocent.