Standing outside the Hays County Courthouse on Friday, friends said that Andy and Jenifer Thyssen are loving parents to six children — good, hardworking people who are active in their church.
Their friends knew the Thyssens had adopted two boys from Kazakhstan 10 years ago. Many even knew that their 22-year-old adopted son, Koystya, had been accused of sexual abuse in the past and was kept locked in a garage apartment at times because the Thyssens feared for the safety of their other children and the community, friends said Friday.
They painted a picture in sharp contrast to an arrest affidavit filed by the Hays County Sheriff’s Department this week that alleges the couple abused Koystya Thyssen by keeping him in the apartment and locking it from the outside. He told police that he never had dinner with the family and was only allowed to leave once a week to shower and to see his counselor, according to the affidavit. He told police that food was delivered once a week, and if he ran out he sometimes went hungry, the affidavit says.
The bail for the couple was originally set at $350,000 each. It was reduced to $70,000 each late Friday afternoon, following a hearing at which attorneys asked that it be reduced because the couple has young children at home.
The couple was arrested Wednesday. Koystya Thyssen’s living situation was discovered after he was arrested in May on suspicion he burglarized a neighbor’s house. According to an arrest affidavit, he waited for his parents to go to church and used a screwdriver to escape from the apartment. He entered the neighbor’s home through an unlocked garage door and took two magazines and two pairs of women’s underwear, which were later found at his apartment, the affidavit says.
Koystya Thyssen, who was adopted in 2004 at the age of 12 and had mental and behavioral issues, was accused of sexually abusing four children in Central Texas, but no criminal charges were ever filed, said attorney Perry Minton, who is representing the couple.
Minton said that the couple had spoken with the parents of the victims. No criminal charges were filed, but Koystya Thyssen was placed in the care of Child Protective Services for three years following the allegations, Minton said. It isn’t clear when the alleged sexual abuse occurred or whether the accusations were supported by evidence. Koystya Thyssen was a minor at the time, Minton said.
Friends of the family said the Thyssens tried to get help from the state social services system, but received none and were left to find solutions of their own.
Koystya Thyssen’s attorney, Allan Williams, had no comment about the sexual abuse allegations against Koystya and declined comment about any aspect of the case.
The Thyssens have six children, including Koystya, ranging in age from 2 to 25 years old. They were being cared for by a relative Friday while their parents were in jail.
“They are kind, loving people,” said John Nagle, a longtime family friend. “They did their level best to protect their children and the community from Koystya, at the same time giving him a humane place to live rather than kicking him out on the street or foisting him on society.”
Nagle, who frequently visited the Thyssen home and went on vacation with the family, said that Koystya Thyssen went out to dinner with the family and that his father frequently took him to his workplace and around town.
The Thyssens live in an upscale neighborhood in Dripping Springs. Andy Thyssen is a computer programmer who co-founded a technology company that does research on cancer treatment. Jenifer Thyssen is a classically trained soprano singer who put out an album of children’s lullabies from around the world in 2011.
Friends and family members packed the courtroom for a bond-reduction hearing Friday morning.
During the hearing, Minton attempted to question Andy Thyssen about Koystya Thyssen’s alleged sexual misconduct, but District Attorney Sherri Tibbe objected, saying they were there to discuss bail amounts for his parents, not Koystya’s past. It is unusual for a bond reduction hearing to be granted only two days after an arrest, but Tibbe waived the typical 10-day period that is used by attorneys for research and to build their case.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for this hearing,” Tibbe told Judge Bill Henry.
The judge agreed and said the hearing would be postponed.
The decrease in bail for the Thyssens was negotiated later in the day, Minton said.
A woman who was there to support the couple left the courtroom in tears when the judge made the announcement.
Outside the courtroom, Minton said the Thyssens had worked with several agencies, including state Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services, and got no help.
“He was taken into CPS for three and half years and (committed) sexual assaults while he was there,” Minton said. “Because CPS was unable to monitor him. They were putting him in a home where other kids were there.”
Eventually, the Thyssens took him back in. Minton said that Koystya Thyssen wasn’t kept locked up, except when neither of the parents was home.
“It started with alarms on doors,” Minton said. “He continued to do nutty things. It got to a point where they had to, when they left the home, lock those doors and leave him in there.”
Minton denied that Koystya Thyssen was only given food each week and said that he was provided with meals every day.
David Drell, a member of the Thyssen’s church, Redeemer Presbyterian in East Austin, said that many of the Thyssens’ friends and family knew about the situation with Koystya Thyssen and never raised an alarm.
“There’s no secrets,” Drell said. “There are all sorts of people that have known about this for 10 years. It’s not like they’ve been off in the woods by themselves. They have begged people for help, and the state of Texas decides to prosecute based on no information.”