Archives for August 2017

Gena and Rondo Latu share a happy life together, some 20 years after Gena fled an abusive relationship in California. She now has found a way to help other victims of domestic violence.

‘It Takes One Good Person’ —
Woman uses her own experience to help Kammy Mae organization

  • By John Hales
  • 08-17-2017

 

            SPRING CITY—Gena Latu directed her husband where to set up the Aloha Joe’s catering van, the three-month-old business they run together.

            As the strains of a string quartet playing familiar classical-music tunes as well interpretations of modern pop/rock songs drifted through Spring City’s park during a fundraiser for the Kammy Mae Foundation on Saturday, Aug. 12, the heavy smell of cooking oil began to waft from the food truck.

            It was such a different smell from the oil that leaked as though from a sieve from the car she drove from California to Sanpete 20 years ago. She spent two to three times as much on oil as she did on gasoline during the trip. It was the only vehicle her former husband had allowed her to have; it was the only way she could escape.

            “There was a visible trail of oil all the way from L.A. to Ephraim,” Latu says.

            Less visible, perhaps, was the trail of tears she shed from 12 years of an abusive relationship.

            It’s almost surprising how easily Latu talks about her experience with domestic violence, but it’s because she is practicing what she preaches.

            “It’s got to keep coming out,” she says. “Before, you didn’t talk about it.”

            Changing that is why the first $50 earned at any Aloha Joe’s catering gig, even before covering expenses, goes to the Kammy Mae Foundation, which held a fundraiser at the Spring City park last Saturday, Aug. 12. The foundation’s goals are domestic violence awareness and prevention.

            “It takes one good person to teach you you’re worth something,” Latu says. She found that person in her current husband, and the two have built what appears to be a happy family. They’ve adopted four children, in addition to the seven Latu had from her previous marriage.

            One of those seven children, at 26 weeks, was literally stomped out of the womb during a beating Latu suffered at the hands of her then-husband. She held the infant’s head inside her while she drove herself to the hospital. The boy was in the hospital for a year; he is still confined to a wheelchair.

            Even after that, Latu stayed for “another four kids.”

            Abusers “rob you of your self-worth,” she says.

            It was a 5-year-old daughter who finally brought her to her senses. During a vicious event, the girl found a hammer and with all her might hit her father in the head with it. It gave Latu enough time to escape, but it left her thinking, “My daughter had to save me? I’m not strong enough to save myself?”

            Though it doesn’t sound like it, Latu is one of the lucky ones.         

            On average, two to three people per month die in Utah in domestic violence incidents. This summer, there’s been a spike in that number.

            “Eight!” Tammy Coates, the mother of Kammy Mae Edmunds, all but shouts. “Eight in one month.”

            Indeed, eight women and children were killed though domestic violence between June 1 and July 15. If suicides of suspected killers are included, the number rises to 12, according to the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.

            By the beginning of August, Utah had already surpassed the 2016 domestic fatality number. Last year, there were 20. There have already been 21 this year.

            More than a third of homicides in Utah each year are the result of domestic-violence.

            Kammy Mae Edmunds, Tammy Coates’ daughter, was the Mt. Pleasant woman who died at the end of March, from an apparent domestic-abuse incident. (Her friends and family would say the cause of death was obvious, but the case against Anthony Christensen, who was living with Kammy Mae at the time of her death, is ongoing).

            At the beginning of the event, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox spoke to the number of domestic-violence deaths in the state.

            Cox lauded the manner in which the local community was coming together to bring awareness to the issue and raise the ante as a community in the fight against it.

            This week, Coates took her message beyond Sanpete, traveling to Vernal to meet Meredith Cherry, a woman who is on a four-year, 10,000-mile journey on horseback to raise domestic-violence awareness.

            Cherry is also a domestic-abuse survivor. She started her journey last January. While in Vernal, Cherry and Coates made a joint appearance on a local radio program.

            During the program, Coates mentioned a woman who went only by the name of Jenn because she was recently out of an abusive relationship and had a protective order against her former partner.

            Jenn, Coates said, had found letters written by her former partner’s ex-wife indicating that even though she had left him, she “was still harassed by him and bullied,” until she finally killed herself to get away from him permanently.

            “We all have the same goal: Getting the word out that we have to bring a stop to this, and getting the word out that there is help,” Coates said.

            On the way home from Vernal, she stopped for a drink at a store near Soldier Summit. The clerk saw her Kammy Mae T-shirt and mentioned she was also a survivor.

            “She never told anyone. Her kids were conditioned to not tell anyone,” Coates says.

            Stopping that kind of silence is what remembering Kammy Mae is all about, Coates and others say.

            As for Gena Latu, she says she can spot the signs of domestic abuse a mile away—and it’s everywhere.

            “When I go to the store, I can tell who’s getting it,” she says. There’s a look in the eyes of both victim and abuser; there’s the way the abuser says things; there’s the way the victim reacts. “You can tell.”

            Asked whether it’s painful to talk about her experience, especially when it’s difficult and painful to just to hear about it, her answer is surprising. With an end-of-discussion firmness, she says, “No. I survived it.”

            Yet she also laughs and jokes in a way that is heartwarming and disconcerting at the same time.

            “You have to have laughter,” she says. “I need to be strong, and take what happened and turn it into a good thing.”

           

           

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves: Search & Rescue volunteers are ‘phenomenal’

 

“These guys are just phenomenal!”

We wish the Messenger could take credit for that exclamation about the Sanpete Search and Rescue, but that honor goes to Sgt. Jayson Albee, the liaison between the S&R and the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Department.

But even if we weren’t the ones to first say it, we can at least echo it—loudly—through the streets, fields, valleys and mountains of Sanpete County.

Especially the mountains, where Search and Rescue volunteers spend so much of their time helping others.

The Messenger sat down with Albee after the successful rescue of a young girl on Skyline Drive, reported in the Aug. 10 issue of the newspaper. During our interview, Albee opened our eyes on just what these “guys” (the group does indeed include women, it should be noted) do.

Between July 2 and Aug. 9, the Search and Rescue responded to nine different calls, including two at the very same time, three in a single 12-hour period, and five in as many days. Some details about these calls will show why these local heroes are worthy of the name.

 

  • July 2 and July 15 — Two ATV accidents, which included locating injured individuals and transporting them to medical helicopters. One of them was an 11-year-old child who had to be LifeFlighted. (Did you know that it is up to the Search and Rescue to establish landing areas on the mountain for helicopter rescues?) In the other incident, the individual was trapped in nasty, steep, rugged canyon and, with broken ribs and possibly broken neck and back, had to be carried 1.5 miles to the landing zone.

“That’s always a little tricky,” Albee says.

That, our friends, is what we call an understatement.

 

  • July 20-21 — Two stuck vehicles in rainy, muddy, slick conditions. While Albee made it clear (and wished us to do likewise) that Search and Rescue means rescuing people, not vehicles, S&R volunteers made sure people who wanted to wait things out until drier conditions had enough food, water and fuel; the others, they brought safely down off the mountain.

 

  • July 23 — A person lost on the Ferron side of 12-Mile Canyon called in at 8:30 p.m. Cellphone coverage was so spotty that dispatchers could make out only “lost,” “injured,” and “Duck Fork.” The call was lost before they could even get GPS coordinates. With such an un-pinpointed area, S&R volunteers were on the call until 4:30 that morning, searching for a long while before using ropes and pulleys to finally rescue a man, who had slipped off a ridge into a deep ravine.

 

  • July 23 — A call came in at 9:03 p.m. (notice the date as the same as the previous one, and only 33 minutes later). Someone had a broken ankle, this time clear up the other end of the county in Fairview Canyon. Albee divided volunteers and resources “the best we could” between there and Duck Fork. The Fairview Canyon incident would require a helicopter to do a hoist. There are only two choppers in the state with that capability, and neither of them currently have the ability for night rescue. Volunteers hiked into him, took him pain medication and other supplies, built fires to keep him warm and spent about five hours with him until first light when the helicopter could lift him out. It took even these seasoned volunteers almost two and a half hours to hike to him through “really nasty, thick, very steep” terrain.

“That’s the neat thing about our guys: They’re prepared to do that,” Albee says.

 

  • July 24 — On the way home from Duck Fork, at about 8:30 a.m., another call: Someone had gone into anaphylactic shock due to a bee sting. Medical assistance was required. Almost any time medical assistance is needed on the mountain, it’s going to involve Search and Rescue because ambulances can’t go “off-road.”

Notice that the last few incidents all occurred during a time when everyone else in the county was celebrating a nice, relaxing, recreational four-day Pioneer Day holiday.

“When it’s a holiday, and we should be enjoying our holiday, we get called out to help somebody who’s having a bad day,” Albee says.

While that’s amazing by itself, the real tremendous thing about it is that Search and Rescue volunteers arent esentful about it.       “They’re a group of people who want to serve, enjoy serving, helping, and doing things that other people can’t do or aren’t willing to do.,” Albee said.

 

  • Aug. 4 — Another stranded motorist in very muddy, uncertain conditions—this time a young family of five, one of the children a 7-month-old infant. Search and Rescue got them back to their camp, where the campers made arrangements to get their vehicle. “They weren’t really prepared to spend the night, mom with a little baby,” Albee says. They weren’t in any real danger, “But you can understand the concern of a dad with little kids, wanting to keep his family safe and comfortable.”

 

 

Now admittedly it was a busier than usual period, Albee said. But it shows what our Search and Rescue volunteers do, and what they must be prepared to do. In that period, they put in 466 combined manhours. That’s the equivalent of more than 11 fulltime workdays.

Then there’s the additional 6-10 hours of training and meetings every month, more than that if they’re specially trained in water rescue (deep-water, swift-water and ice), snow rescue (avalanche, snowmobiles and snow cats), technical rescue (ropes, high-angle, low-angle, confined-space and heavy (weight) rescue), or on the communications team (radio operations, GPS and APRS—a real-time direct-to-computer tracking system).

Then you’ve got the parades and celebrations in which their presence is ubiquitous (think: Mormon Miracle Pageant or Sanpete County Fair).

Their dedication and sense of duty is nothing short of amazing. “The pager goes off, and they’re expected to run out the door, grab their gear, and go spend the night up on the mountain with little or no warning at all,” Albee says, and often in conditions that no other sane person would dare go out in.

“I keep saying,” Albee says, and we say it, too, “My hat’s off to them.”

If you see one of them, shake his or her hand and with us say, “Thank you.”

 

Sanpete Search and Rescue are:

Bart Hennagir

Mark Taylor

Aaron Broomhead

Todd Anderson

Joe Shoppe

Barry Bradley

Beau Lund

Orson Cook

Marc Lambert

Kevin Madsen

Spencer Mack

Scott Mower

Donald Childs

Les Haskins

Kerry Nielson

Niel Johnson

Claude Pickett

Andy Christensen

Zeke Stevens

Dave Welch

John Collard

Preston Pritchard

Jesse Bell

RL Taylor

Dave Taylor

BJ Roman

Dave Bowles

Dick Allred

Katy Sedlak

Lory Quarnberg

Glen Hoenicke

John Allsop

Noel Bertleson

Malcolm Powell

Brian Nielson

Jayson Albee

Brian Sorensen

Bruce Burnham

Jared Buchanan

Brett Olsen

Scott Watson

David Sedlak

Vote tallies for the Mt. Pleasant mayoral primary, and the Spring City council-seat primaries, as of Tuesday, Aug. 17.

[Read more…]

Cassidy Livingston poses for a memento photo during a family camping trip on Friday, Aug. 4, one day before the girl got lost near Skyline Drive at the top of Fairview Canyon. After being missing for about four hours, the girl was found safe and sound by travelers.

 

Search and Rescue pull out stops to look for lost girl

 

John Hales

Staff writer

8-10-2017

 

FAIRVIEW—A West Valley City family is celebrating an extra-happy birthday of their 4-year-old daughter and sister today, after a few tense hours last weekend when the young girl was lost at the top of Fairview Canyon.

Sanpete County Search and Rescue crews and others searched for the girl on Saturday, Aug. 5, after she had somehow become separated from her family, who had made a stop at the Big Drift parking lot near Skyline Drive while on their way home to West Valley City from a camping trip.

She was missing for several hours, during which she traveled about two or more miles “as the crow flies,” said Sanpete County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jayson Albee.

She was found by a traveler on the highway near Huntington Reservoir, who notified rescue officers at a search staging-area further up the road.

“She wandered for about four hours over really, really steep, rugged, rocky, thick pine trees and downfall, quaking aspen, a creek bed and then up to the highway,” Albee said.

“Just for one of us to hike the distance she hiked would take a lot of effort… She covered some crazy distance with little 4-year-old legs.”

The girl wandered away when they stopped at the Big Drift rest area while driving home to West Valley City from a camping trip, said the girl’s mother, Colleen Livingston.

While stopped, some of the family decided to hike a little while others stayed behind. Both groups thought the girl was with the others. Back at the vehicle, young Cassidy was nowhere to be found.

“I had this very urgent feeling that ‘This is real; we need to call someone right away,’” she said.

She called Sanpete County Dispatch.

“The most terrifying thing to me was that I didn’t have that feeling that everything was okay,” she said. Her mind, in the worst of any mother’s fears, went to a photograph she had taken of Cassidy the night previous. “I started thinking that maybe that picture I took of her last night would be the last one.”

Rescue and emergency responders arrived and began looking for Cassidy at about 5 p.m.

“There was a lot of confusion, a lot of anxiety,” Sgt. Albee said.

Along with Sgt. Albee, Sheriff Brian Nielson and Sgt. Jared Buchanan, 15 Search and Rescue team members joined the search, as did two officers from the Utah Division of Natural Resources.

“We follow the same procedures on all of our calls,” Albee said, “but with a kid there’s a lot more emotion involved. It just tends to be that way. We tend to be more emotionally attached to kids.”

An AirCare helicopter assisted in the search, and Rocky Mountain Rescue Dogs were also called in, but the girl was found before the dogs were needed.

About 7 p.m., Cassidy wandered near the highway close to Huntington Reservoir, according to Albee.

“An individual driving on the highway actually saw her,” Albee said. Another vehicle stopped with the first and then continued to the search’s staging area to alert authorities.

“There were some shouts of celebration when they heard over the radio that we found her,” Albee said.

The wife of a Search and Rescue volunteer who went up to the search took the girl, comforted her and gave her a piece of licorice while they waited for her mother to arrive.

An officer with Colleen Livingston told her Cassidy had been found.

“I started to cry again,” Livingston said. “When we drove back there, I saw her, and I thought, ‘She doesn’t even realize that anything has happened.’ She was just engrossed in her licorice.”

The girl asked “Mom, did you know that you left me?” which Livingston said was a bit of a heartbreaking moment, though she tried to explain to her daughter what had happened.

“I want to give a shout out or thank you to the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office,” Livingston said. “They were so helpful and so kind and caring, they didn’t care about anything else, just her safety and getting her found. They didn’t care that I was a mess. They were very kind in the way they put things, when they could tell I was upset. I actually had a lot of confidence … that they were going to do the very best that they could to find her.”

Other than a few minor scrapes on her legs from branches and twigs, and being a little cold and tired, Cassidy was just fine.

Sanpete Search and Rescue members congregate near Skyline Drive in Fairview Canyon on Saturday, Aug. 5, celebrating the recovery of Cassidy Livingston. Pictured are Preston Pritchard, Pritchard’s son and wife, Mark Taylor, Pritchard’s daughter, B.J. Roman, Katy Sedlak, Sgt. Jared Buchanan, Sheriff Brian Nielson, Andy Christensen, and Zeke Stevens. Not pictured but assisting in the search were Aaron Broomhead, Joe Shoppe, Kerry Nielson, Niel Johnson, Bruce Burnham, Beau Lund, Marc Lambert, Noel Bertelson, and the Utah Division of Natural Resource’s Preston Mickelson and Casey Mickelson.

Utah Fourth District Congresswoman Mia Love discusses policy and philosophy with constituents during “open office hours,” Rep. Love’s answer to the standard town-hall meeting, on Thursday, Aug. 3, at Mt. Pleasant City Hall.

 

Voters discuss health care, immigration, Trump with Rep. Love

 

John Hales

Staff writer

8-10-2017

 

MT. PLEASANT—Health care, immigration, congressional dysfunction and President Donald Trump were all dominant themes during a visit Utah 4th District Rep. Mia Love held with Sanpete constituents last week in Mt. Pleasant.

Several of Sanpete’s usual political issues—water, public lands, PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) and constitutional integrity—consumed much of the discussion during small-group sessions between Love and constituents on Thursday, Aug. 3.
Before those meetings, Rep. Love answered questions from the Messenger about the Narrows project and President Trump.

“I’m not even focused on the White House,” Love said when the Messenger inquired whether she thought the President was hindering work in Washington.

If the President is creating more problems than are being solved, she said, it’s because the power of the Executive Branch generally has grown too great. She made sure she singled out President Barack Obama by name while also implying Trump had a role.

“The best thing we can do is create and restore a balance of power,” she said. “We want to restore power back to the people.”

What that means, she said, is reigning in executive power, limiting it strictly to Article 2 of the Constitution while restoring to Congress the full vitality it should have under Article 1—especially the House of Representatives with its power of the purse and as the legislative body closest to “the people.”

That theme was the topic that several 15 to 20-minute group meetings. with no more than a handful of people at a time, had in common.

The format was a departure from the town hall-style meetings members of Congress often hold with constituents; Love called the small-group discussions “open office hours.”

Smaller discussion groups are less prone to eruptions of the sort lawmakers have encountered during traditional town-hall meetings, such as one several months ago called by former 3rd District Rep. Jason Chaffetz. A cadre of police officers was required to maintain order at the gathering.

Love got several questions and comments about health care, which was to be expected since the so-called “Skinny Bill” had been defeated the Senate the week before.

But it wasn’t Sen. John McCain, who cast the deciding vote against the bill, who got thumbs down from Sanpete constituents—or from Love.

The reason the Senate had to go to the Skinny Bill was that a previous bill couldn’t muster enough votes and, while some senators thought it went too far, others thought it didn’t go far enough. Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee was one of the latter, and his refusal to vote to allow debate on the bill led to the Skinny-Bill replacement, which was defeated.

“The fact that they wouldn’t even take the comprehensive bill and debate it on the Senate floor was disheartening to me,” Love said in answer to concerns from Sanpete County Commissioner Scott Bartholomew.

“We’ve given Senator Lee’s people a hard time about that,” Bartholomew replied.

Love pointed out that she didn’t “mention any names,” but her displeasure with Lee was apparent, along with discouragement with the Senate in general.

On a couple of occasions, Love fielded questions about the lack of results in Washington.

“You guys are controlling now, the Republicans, and nothing’s getting done,” Commissioner Bartholomew decried.

“I’m not going to make any excuses,” Love said, and then blamed the Senate for failing to act on 230 pieces of legislation that the House had passed but were sitting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk.

Only one constituent seemed to be at odds with the congresswoman. Again, the topic was health care.

The constituent was not a Republican, he said. He was studying to work in the medical profession—and was despondent about the state of the health-care debate

“As a medical student,” he said, “I’m putting all my chips into health care, and I’m almost regretting it every day.”

The man wanted to know what could be done to salvage the ACA.

The previous week, the health-insurance carrier Molina pulled out of Utah, as Humana did last year, leaving 70,000 customers having to find new insurance options.

Love noted the loss, and said of the ACA, “It’s going south, it’s going south.”

She said she isn’t an automatic ‘yes’ for replacing the ACA. “Replacement—what does that look like? If it’s government dictating everything … no. But if replacement means we’re going to be adding more free-market opportunities … I’m for that absolutely.”

On immigration, Love was asked about and responded to questions that implicated south-of-the-border immigrants as well as refugees from Muslim countries.

Concerns over border security should be less about “border” and more about “security,” she said. “Immigration is something that has been really politicized; the ‘wall’ has been…more about racism instead of actual security.”

One constituent was concerned about what he saw as a rise in the possibility of Sharia law in the United States,

“The behavior of some Muslims demonstrates that the values of some Muslims are not compatible with the Constitution,” he said.

The man also inquired about a government agency that he felt was enabling, rather than preventing, terrorism by working with and providing services to the Muslim-refugee community, and perhaps even funneling money to Islamic extremists.

Love took her constituent’s point.

As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, Love sits on the newly created Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee.

If the government was indeed contributing to or enabling—wittingly or no—Islamic extremism, “This is a great place to find it,” she said. “In Terrorism and Illicit Financing, it would be really interesting to see if the government agencies are doing things that are the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do.”

Even though Love had said at the outset she wasn’t focused on the White House, several constituents gave Trump-related questions or comments.

Several of them asked questions such as, “I want to know why representatives are sitting there fighting amongst themselves and not backing the President,” or were concerned about the number of staff shake-ups in the administration and wondered if such things were distracting to Love and other Congress members.

“He can hire and fire who he wants to,” Love said. “Although, I wish there was more stability there.”

Again, she suggested the solution was to restore the Constitutionally-intended separation and balance of powers. “It’s hard to do my job because I feel that the Constitution isn’t being practiced the way it was meant to be practiced.”

While willing to give the president a chance, she indicated, she is neither a rubber-stamp nor a cheerleader for him.

“My job is to praise the president when he does something great, and call him out when he doesn’t,” she said, adding later, “The office of the president should be done where there’s some decorum and respect, and a way of understanding that the person who holds the office is representing everyone… It is frustrating because I think it’s distracting from a lot of what should be going on. There’s so much more that has to be done.”

A closer look at Utah County investigative report on Ephraim Police Department

 

Suzanne Dean

Publisher

6-10-2017

 

A couple of weekends ago, I finished a close read of the Utah County investigative report on the Ephraim Police Department.

After I did, I became aware that there were things that still needed to be addressed in our coverage of the document. I felt some additional interpretation was needed, which we were initially unable to provide due to deadlines and other constraints, to give readers a more complete view of what has gone on in the Ephraim Police Department.

I also felt we needed to give an expanded explanation of the considerations the city council faced in deciding to reinstate Chief Ron Rasmussen after placing him on administrative leave.

I need to state some caveats to this column. It doesn’t cover every issued raised in the Utah County report. My first draft was more than 4,000 words. That’s more than you, the reader, are going to want to read and more than the newspaper has space to print. I had to cut down to what I considered to be the important points.

If an average citizen read the Utah County report without knowing the background, he or she would probably say, “What’s the big deal?”

Having interviewed the three Ephraim officers who resigned, having interviewed the city manager two or three times, having interviewed Chief Rasmussen, having looked at some of the public documents connected with the case, and having talked to other reporters on staff who have had other interviews and also looked at documents, I believe I have a deeper understanding of the report than the casual reader.

So I’m going to interpret—in some cases reading between the lines of the report, providing background not in the report, and even stating my personal opinion on a few things. That’s why I’m doing this as a column under my name, rather than as a straight news story.

The answer we don’t know …

The main question in the whole controversy was why the city council decided to reinstate Chief Rasmussen.

The answer is we don’t know for sure. The deliberations were behind closed doors. One weakness in our Messenger coverage was that we didn’t specifically ask the mayor or the city manager about the rationale for reinstatement. I would also like to know why two city council members were not present at the closed meeting where the decision was made.

But based on the Utah County report and all I’ve been able to learn about the case, I think I can make some pretty safe assumptions. The council, I’m sure, viewed Rasmussen’s failure to complete hundreds of incident reports to be a problem. I don’t know if they connected the missing reports with a possible failure to investigate some crimes. But the significant finding from the report, in council members’ minds, was that failing to write reports was not a crime.

On the other hand, the report paints a picture of one of the three officers, Darren Pead, as an insubordinate troublemaker. Based on what I know, Pead took the lead in rallying other officers to try to get their boss investigated, fired and criminally prosecuted.

In the end, the city council sided against Pead and the other officers and with Rasmussen, the department head.

Lack of oversight

Since Rasmussen was reinstated, one might assume the Utah County report was favorable to him. Far from it. Every one of Rasmussen’s subordinates, and one former employee, faulted him for not writing reports, even when asked repeatedly to write them. The three patrol officers who later resigned said Rasmussen, very simply, was not a good cop. And the report cites incidents where the chief failed to display common-sense administrative skills.

But underlying the problems was city administrations which, going back years, failed to oversee the Rasmussen or the Police Department. Apparently, it wasn’t clear until recently whether the department reported to the city manager, as all city departments should, or directly to the mayor.

All police agencies in Sanpete County use the same electronic records system. When Utah County investigators searched the system in June, 272 reports came up as incomplete. Of those, 237 were Rasmussen’s.

Reports unwritten, reports cleared

We don’t know if that count covers all of the calls where Rasmussen didn’t write a report in a timely fashion. The chief acknowledged that he took calls for service on his cell phone. A case number and an associated electronic document for entering a report is only generated on calls that go through Sanpete County dispatch.

In Ephraim, Sgt. Len Gasser is responsible for clearing all reports, including Rasmussen’s. He told investigators he had cleared “a few” Rasmussen cases that didn’t contain a narrative about what the call was about. We don’t know how many cases is “a few.”

Finally, just before Rasmussen went on administrative leave, Mayor Ralph Squire directed him to write as many missing reports as possible. The chief spent at least a couple of days doing so. We don’t know how many reports, on calls that could have been years old, were written, and possibly cleared by Gasser, at the last minute.

One problem with Rasmussen failing to write reports was that line officers in the department were being held to a standard that the top officer was not meeting.

The Utah County report paraphrases Trista Jordan, the department records clerk. “She believes if any of the other officers were behind in their reports like the chief, they would be fired, and she believes this is unfair to the officers.”

Another problem was that when attorneys or state agencies needed a report in order to prosecute a case or do other important things like investigate child abuse or get restitution for victims, the report often wasn’t there.

The investigators looked into a case, which, while the complainant name was blacked out in the report before it was released to the public, was obviously the Adair child sodomy case. The Messenger ran a story about the case in early July.

The case record showed the Ephraim Police Department had received requests for the police report from the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) and the Utah Attorney General’s Office. And the Utah Office of Crime Victim Reparations requested the report five times. Rasmussen still didn’t write the report.

All I can say is if an officer of a court or a state agency requested a business document from my company five times, and the employee responsible still didn’t provide the document, I’d fire the person.

Problem more than managerial

Rasmussen told Utah County investigators that the reason he didn’t write reports was that he got busy “and it all just snowballed.”

Judi Gines, the former records clerk, said the chief would sometimes lock himself in his office to do reports “but he would quickly get distracted by something else.”

My response is that one critical trait of a manager is the ability to ward out distractions and focus on a mandatory task until complete. I sometimes see lights on after 10 p.m. in the Sanpete County Attorney’s Office where public servants are apparently doing just that.

Incomplete police work

But the main problem with incomplete reports is that the reason they’re not complete may be that police work is not complete.

The Utah County report quotes one of the officers who resigned, Jared Hansen, as asking, “How many people have called the chief, and he told them he’d take care of it, but there is no follow through?”

Shortly after our first stories on the Rasmussen case came out, I got a phone call from a manager at a retail business in Ephraim about a case I hope is not typical.

The manager told me that in January 2017, an employee stole $2,200 in cash that was ready to be deposited in the bank. The store has clear video of the theft. Rasmussen was the responding officer on the case. He told the manager he would review the video and get back to him.

As of June, the employee had not been arrested. In fact, because of company policy and because the employee had not been arrested or charged, the store couldn’t even fire him.

I felt, as a citizen, I had an obligation to report what I’d heard. So on June 29, I emailed the city manager. Later, the store manager told me Rasmussen had come in again and again had promised to take care of the problem. But a couple of weeks passed, the store manager heard nothing, and the employee was not arrested.

When the store manager’s boss came in from out of town, the boss said, “Maybe we should sue Ephraim City.”  Mind you, the follow-up and second promise of action happened after the whole reports issue had blown up. I have not talked to the store manager in the past two weeks, so I don’t know if anything has been done recently on the case.

Chain of command

Regarding administrative issues, the culture in the Police Department did not seem to support taking serious concerns “up the food chain,” so to speak.

Both Larry Golding and Jared Hansen said they had gone to their direct supervisor, Sgt. Len Gasser, repeatedly (one said “dozens of times”) to express concern about Rasmussen’s reports.

Based on the Utah County report, Gasser himself talked with Rasmussen about the reporting problem many times. But Gasser never escalated the issue to the city manager or the mayor. If he had, the reporting issue could have been resolved years ago, and the expense and pain of the recent controversy avoided.

Apparently, there were no disciplinary policies or procedures in the department (at least none that were being followed). When Darren Pead defied a direct order to sign a memo agreeing to use a department template for incident reports, Gasser wanted to write Pead up. Rasmussen told him not to.

Darren Pead himself told investigators that it appeared to him “that the chief couldn’t make a decision.”

Supporting the chief

But as I implied at the beginning of this column, the Utah County report also contained substantial information supporting the chief. The most persuasive material for me was statements by Sgt. Gasser, Judi Gines and Sanpete County Sheriff Brian Nelson describing Rasmussen as honest and a man of integrity.

Gasser described Rasmussen as “the most honest person I know.”

Sheriff Nielson described the chief as “the most honest person…has tremendous integrity…never shirks anything to benefit someone else…really takes care of his guys.”

Besides asking Sheriff Nielson for feedback on Rasmussen, Utah County investigators asked if the sheriff he had any concerns with any of the Ephraim officers. Nielson said he had concerns about Darren Pead, who formerly worked for the Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff said, in the words of the report,  that Pead “believed that he was always right and did not like to be told what to do.” According to the report, the sheriff said that “while Officer Pead was working for the Sheriff’s Office…they had similar problems (to what) Ephraim is now having with him.”

Reading between the lines of the Utah County report, the starting point in the whole police controversy was a dispute between Sgt. Gasser and Darren Pead about the template the sergeant wanted officers to follow in writing their reports.

Pead claimed the template “didn’t flow” and impeded him in writing a clear, chronological narrative about what happened.

Another issue that came to the fore about the same time was officers unplugging their GPS devices. All of the Ephraim officers had GPS’s in their vehicles. Rasmussen told investigators he tracked officers by GPS in order to make sure they were doing what they were supposed to be doing. But at least two of the officers found this tracking to be intrusive and periodically unplugged their GPS’s.

In late May of this year, while Rasmussen was on vacation, Gasser drew up a memo containing several directives to his officers, including directing them not to unplug their GPS’s and requiring them to use the template.

Golding and Hansen signed the memo. According to the Utah County report, “Officer Pead refused to sign the form. He stated he would comply with all of it except the use of the template. Officer Pead drew an arrow up, indicating his agreement with the directives on the memo other than the template. He then signed the paper near his arrow.”

At that point, according to the Utah County report, Gasser told Pead complying with the whole memo was not a request, but an order. “Officer Pead still did not sign the form..,” the report says.

I’ve covered other police departments, including Salt Lake City police. They all have templates. And all officers in Sanpete County follow a template in writing probable cause statements that are used to prosecute people for crimes.

The Utah County report included the headings used in the template. Although the template might force officers to repeat information, or to answer “not applicable” to some items, the format looked workable to me.

Blistering email

Right after the memo-signing incident, Darren Pead sent what can only be described as a blistering email to Rasmussen. The email was provided as an appendix to the Utah County report.

“Words cannot express how disappointed I am with this department right now,” Pead wrote. “After the extreme corruption that I dealt with in the county, this is over the top for me. I never would have come here if I would’ve know it was this way here…

“This is absolute madness, and I would be flexible as possible if it didn’t affect my professionalism…I would rather work in any other place than here right now…If this is how it’s going to be, you might as well let me know face to face so I can move on and we can stop wasting everyone’s time.”

After Rasmussen returned from vacation, he and Pead met about the template issue for somewhere between 90 minutes and 2 hours. Then, according to the Utah County report, Rasmussen asked Pead to come to a meeting with both him and Gasser later in the day, but Pead “asked to be excused” from the second meeting.

My personal reaction is that if one of my employees sent me an email like the one Pead sent Rasmussen, I would have the person in my office as soon as I possibly could. The meeting would run 15 minutes, not an hour and a half to two hours.

I would have a written warning ready to go and would tell the person, “Based on your attitude, I don’t believe our company is the right fit for you. We value your skills, but you are going to need to change your attitude to stay here. Do you want to commit to changing your attitude, or would you prefer to leave now?”

After the meeting with Rasmussen, it appears Pead took the lead in starting to look up information about chief’s missing reports and rallying the two other officers to take a stand against the chief.

‘Official misconduct’

During that time, Pead texted the mayor and city manager a copy of a state statute on “official misconduct.” The statute says, “A public servant is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor if, with an intent to benefit himself or another or to harm another, he knowingly commits an unauthorized act, which purports to be an act of his office, or knowingly refrains from performing a duty imposed on him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.”

In interviews with the Messenger, Pead took the position that Rasmussen’s failure to complete reports was a case of “knowingly refrain(ing) from performing a duty…clearly inherent in the nature of his office” and thus a violation of the statute.

Pead didn’t just want Rasmussen removed from his job. He wanted him criminally prosecuted. While, in interviews with the newspaper, the other officers weren’t as adamant as Pead about wanting criminal prosecution, they ultimately took the same stand.

But there was a qualifier in the statute that apparently applies to both “commit(ting) an unauthorized act” and “refrain(ing) from performing a duty imposed…inherent in the nature of his office.” The public official has to act “with an intent to benefit himself or another, or to harm another.”

Utah County investigators asked the chief “if there was ever any time he did not finish a report due to his relationship with either the suspect or the victim, or anyone else somehow involved with the case.” Rasmussen said he had not.

The investigators asked the chief if he and Sgt. Gasser had ever “conspired with each other to not complete a report for one reason or another.” The chief stated that they had not.

Not criminal

The investigators went a step further. They asked Rasmussen, if he was required to take a polygraph test and asked the same questions, would he pass? According to the report, “He stated, without hesitation, that he would certainly pass the exam. Chief Rasmussen denied several times any intent to not complete any of his reports.”

Subsequently, one of the investigators talked with the Utah County attorney, a deputy Utah county attorney and Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel. All three agreed that Rasmussen’s failure to complete reports, in the words of the Utah County document, “did not rise to a criminal level.”

Inaccurate information

There was one area of the Utah County report where I fear investigators did not have accurate information. One premise in the report was that the Ephraim Police Department was overworked. Sgt. Gasser told an investigator Ephraim had grown to a population of 7,000, plus 5,000 at the college.

The U.S. Census and Utah Data Center estimate of the 2017 population of Ephraim is 6,724, including Snow College. And there was nothing in the report mentioning that Snow College has two full-time officers who frequently respond to calls off campus. So in fact, there were five full-time officers (and now six) for a population of less than 7,000.

The Utah County report said that during 2016, Ephraim officers responded to an average of 386.6 calls per officer. If an officer works five days per week and takes three weeks of vacation, that comes out to 1.6 calls per shift.

Not terribly busy

When I interviewed the three officers who resigned, they told me they were not terribly busy with calls. One officer said he sometimes worked a whole weekend without getting a call. The officers said when they didn’t have calls, they generated their own work by following up on leads related to drug trafficking and other crimes. But all said they had plenty of time to write reports and usually completed them by the end of each shift.

That’s the story, and it’s not fake news. It’s the most truthful account I could ascertain with based on all the information available—and that was a lot of information.

Neither the Messenger as a newspaper nor I as publisher has ever taken a stand on whether or not the city council should have reinstated Chief Rasmussen. My staff and I do believe in representative democracy. Once duly elected representatives have made a final decision, we support the decision.

John Scott

[Read more…]

A flashy sportscar might get more attention than a traditional campaign lawn sign for Todd Horn, one of Mt. Pleasant’s primary candidates for city mayor. The primary election’s mail-in deadline is Aug. 14, though voters can walk in their ballots to the county clerk’s office until 8 p.m. on August 15.

[Read more…]

Michelle Serra, arrested Friday, July 28, for the alleged kidnapping of Lindsay Pearson.

One arrest, more expected, in case of Centerfield girl recovered in Cedar City

 

Greg Knight

Staff writer

8/3/2017

 

CEDAR CITY—Lindsey Pearson is safe at home in Centerfield after allegedly being kidnapped and taken to Cedar City over the weekend, and one adult has been arrested in the case—with additional suspects likely to be charged in coming days.

Pearson, 17, was found safe and sound at off-campus housing near Southern Utah University’s (SUU) campus and, according to a statement from Gunnison Valley Police Department (GVPD) Chief Brett McCall, Pearson spoke with FBI agents prior to being contacted by SUU officers.

“(We) have found several suspects complicit in taking Lindsey out of the Gunnison Valley area and away from her custodial parent who resides in Centerfield,” McCall said. “In cooperation with other local and federal partners, (we) were able to navigate the complicated scheme the conspirators concocted … to take Lindsey and then attempt to ‘hide her out’ in Cedar City.

“This involves a non-custodial parent and at least two others. There will be charges filed against those others, pending our work with the Sanpete County Attorney’s Office.”

Officers arrested 29-year-old Michelle Serra of Milford on Friday, July 28 in Beaver. Serra was held in the Sanpete County Jail on charges of felony kidnapping, and was released the next morning after posting $10,000 bail.

According to McCall, his department plans to arrest others in the case.

McCall added that Cedar City Police Department (CCPD) officers were not involved in the investigation—and that their department felt there was a conflict of interest in the case.

CCPD Sgt. Jerry Womack said the recusal came from a “strong desire to do the right thing.”

“One of our officers is a family member to one of the accused in this case,” Sgt. Womack said. “We felt like it wasn’t appropriate to be handling it.”

Pearson didn’t come home after work Thursday evening, July 27, at 9 p.m. at Coach B’s in Gunnison and her bicycle was found near the Gunnison Valley High School football field, leaned against a fence, according to police.

Artist Michael Moonbird works on designing the artwork that will cover on eof 360 porcelain glazed tiles that will form a mural that will make up Legacy Wall, a key element of Gunnison’s Legacy Plaza, which sits on the same property as the old Top Stop that leaked thousands of gallons of gasoline under the city’s Main Street a decade ago. Until now, the clocktower—installed in 2013—has been the plaza’s most prominent element.

 

Legacy Plaza signature feature’s time has come

 

Clara Hatcher

Staff writer

8/3/2017

 

GUNNISON—A completed public-art masterpiece that will be the signature feature of Gunnson’s Legacy Wall is on scheduled to be unveiled in just about two months,

After nearly seven years of work and the efforts of hundreds of people, the art installation—a mural made of glazed porcelain tiles—will be inaugurated at a celebration set for Saturday, Sept. 23.

“It’s going to be a big deal,” said Lori Nay, who is a Legacy Wall Committee member, and also the cofounder and director of the Casino Star Theatre Foundation.

The Casino Star Theatre Foundation is the primary sponsor of the Legacy Wall art project. Nay has been working with fellow Foundation cofounder Diana Spencer for years to complete the project.

The celebration in September will include closing part of Gunnison’s Center Street to make room for a live band, food, games, chalk art and the mural’s unveiling at what is known now as the city’s Legacy Paza.

Although the mural will be covered during the installation process, Nay said there will be peep-holes for people to check on the project’s progress.

According to Nay, the project attempts to reflect a “personal history that the people of Gunnison can connect with.” The mural itself will be made by 360 one-foot-square tiles made of porcelain that have been glazed, covered with “images of local life and history.”

While many of the tiles are being prepared by professional artists, some of them were designed by kids in the community who previously made them in an arts and education project run by the Casino Star Theatre Foundation.

In addition to colorful scenes from the valley, historic portraits of significant people and places will complete the wall and “honor local history.”

“In reality, we have been working on this for more than seven years,” Nay said. “In that time, we have worked with more than 2,000 people to pull this together.”

Nay said that people in the city started to get serious about the Legacy Wall project once the clocktower (which stands in Legacy Plaza with the to-be-built Legacy Wall mural) was built in 2013. But, the project really goes back to the Top Stop gas leak in 2007, according to Nay.

Jon Riddle of Salt Lake City and his crew of artistic tile installers have been preparing the bare concrete wall which will soon be the Legacy Wall mural. Riddle will begin applying tiles on Aug. 10. Curved benches will provide seating for viewers of the panorama.

“I think it illustrates the past and present and everything that is great about Gunnison Valley,” Nay said. “We want it to be very personal to everyone.”

Donations are still needed to complete the Legacy project. The committee is sponsoring a raffle offering a scooter, a gazebo and various other prizes to be given away the evening of the celebration. Individual donations will also be accepted, and donors giving $1,000 or more will have their names permanently engraved on a plaque next to the wall.

Donations can be sent to Casino Star Theatre Foundation, c/o Lori Nay, Project Manager, PO Box 429, Gunnison, UT, 84634. All donations are tax deductible.

 

Hundreds turn out to remember Shauna Allen

 

Greg Knight

Staff writer

8/3/2017

 

MORONI—Hundreds of friends and family members gathered at the Moroni LDS Stake Center Monday for the funeral of Shauna Allen, a beloved mother, nurse and friend to many, who died in a car crash last week in Duchesne County.

Allen’s 12-year-old daughter, Josclynn Allen, 12, who had was injured in the accident, was released from the hospital.

The funeral of Shauna Allen, 46, began with an invocation by Allen’s son, Tanner Allen, who said, “Mom, we know you’re okay.”

The prayerful statement was followed by sacred musical selections from Shauna Allen’s siblings, as well as remembrances from her family and Sanpitch Ward LDS Bishop Tad Steadman.

The gathering of mourners was so massive that the overflow of the stake center’s cultural center was filled to the point of standing-room-only.

After the funeral, Shauna Allen was laid to rest at the Wales Town Cemetery, which overlooks the vast expanse of Sanpete Valley—the place she loved so much during her life.

Pallbearers were Tanner Allen, Tyler Allen, Jared Allen, Taft Allen, Kaydon Stubbs, husband Derryk Allen and Tucker Allen.

Allen died tragically in a two-car crash in Duchesne County on Sunday, July 23. Her daughter, Josclynn Allen, 12, was severely injured in the crash and was hospitalized in Salt Lake City.

“Josclynn has officially been released from the hospital, and allowed to continue her healing at home with her family,” stated a post on social media. “Thank you all for your continued prayers, love, support, and kind deeds as the Allen family works on picking up the pieces shattered by this tragedy.”

Shauna Allen was a nurse at Intermountain Healthcare’s clinic in Mt. Pleasant for more than a decade. Numerous emergency first-responders from Sanpete County and the surrounding region were at the funeral.

The clinic, though its spokesperson, spoke of the grief among friends and co-workers at the loss of Shauna.

“We are mourning with our community at the recent loss of one of our fellow caregivers…” said Brooke Heath, a communications specialist for Intermountain Healthcare. “For more than 10 years, Shauna served as a registered nurse with our hospital and the Mt. Pleasant clinic where she made lasting impressions on both her patients and our teams. We, as a hospital and clinic staff, are grateful for the privilege we had to work alongside Shauna for these years. Our heart-felt condolences go out to our friends, the Allen family, during this trying time.”

On the website of Rasmussen Mortuary, a number of those who knew Shauna left messages of love, grief and remembrance.

“No words can be expressed to share how I feel,” wrote Terri Joyner. “I was a [LDS] Young Women’s President years ago and Shauna was one of ‘My Girls.’ I worked at Utah Valley Hospital 34 years and wish I would have known she was working there too … I had not ever seen her again since I moved as she hadn’t graduated from high school yet … I remember going to Timpview High School where we went as a group with the Young Women to watch Shauna compete in a talent competition … I remember how well she and her siblings were raised and how well they all got along … She was as much a mother to her siblings as her own sweet mother … I loved just watching that family on Sundays … I keep your dear family in my prayers that somehow you all will find peace and comfort.”

Another visitor to the Rasmussen website, Heather Tomlin, wrote, “I am so very sorry. Shauna was always a ray of sunshine in my day at work. She is a true example of friendship and kindness. She leaves a great legacy to be proud of.”

A crowdfunding webpage to help defray the costs of medical bills for Josclynn and her injured siblings has been set up. Although the stated goal of raising $10,000 for Derryk Allen and his family has already been met, donations can still be made at https://www.youcaring.com/derrykallen-886318.

Read my lips: So few taxes…

…result in more taxes later, Fairview and Sanpete residents are about to find

 

John Hales

Staff writer

8/3/2017

 
FAIRVIEW—The chickens of the past have come home to roost in terms of delayed tax increases in Fairview City.

After more than two decades of almost no property tax increases, including one year in which taxes were actually lowered, Fairview is asking its residents to pony up by paying 17 percent more in property taxes.

“We hate to see it, but the reality is that we’ve got to make some changes here and there,” said Fairview City Administrator Dave Taylor last week. “We’ve been living on a budget that’s however many years old, and we just can’t do it.”

Taylor and other city officials will offer more detail next week when they hold a truth-in-taxation public hearing to explain the reasons the proposed property tax increase. That hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 8 at 7:30 p.m., at Fairview City Hall.

For years, Taylor said, Fairview property owners got a pass. In 24 or so years, there has been only one tax increase that came from the city. And even that one, he said, amounted to only $3,000 citywide.

“Our expenses have been creeping up and up for the last 20 years,” he said.

The city’s revenue has not kept pace.

“The citizens of Fairview were blessed to not have a tax increase for many years,” he said, but now that blessing has become a “curse” because taxpayers must now make up for the past.

“For us to do justice to our citizens, what services do you want cut if we don’t increase taxes a little bit?” said Taylor, who, as a candidate for mayor, could take some of the heat for the increase personally.

For instance, he said, some people are clamoring for additional police protection in the city, which would mean hiring another officer. With salary and benefits, it’s a chunk of change for a city with a budget the size of Fairview’s.

Even if the city got another $70,000 in additional tax revenue, it wouldn’t be enough, he said. “We would have to double your property taxes to even think about getting another officer. It’s amazing how many people don’t comprehend that.”

The tax proposal, as it stands now, would raise taxes by about $16 on a home valued at $150,000, or about $25 for a $200,000 home.

“It’s not huge,” Taylor said, while in the same breath acknowledging that any increase is unwelcome, especially for the roughly one-third of Fairview’s citizens who are at retirement age or older and on fixed incomes.

“There’s no silver lining,” Taylor said. “… All these price increases, where is that money coming from? That means they have less food on their table. They’re struggling on their power bills because they don’t have the money to pay them.”

Taylor’s opponent in the mayoral race, Shauna Rawlinson, said she didn’t know the specifics of the tax increase, and so couldn’t comment specifically.

She recognized the city needs to provide vital services that need to be paid for, such as police and utilities. “I always appreciate the desire to improve city services, but our citizens need a break if we can offer them one.”

She outlined a general position of fewer taxes and smaller government.             “Fairview City is a small agricultural town, with small-town values. People work hard for their money and like to be able to hang on to it,” she said. “I think lower taxes help our local community by keeping money in our citizens’ pockets. I also think cities, especially small ones, should exhaust every possible avenue of avoiding a tax increase before proposing one.”

                Fairview’s citizens might find the tax increase even more burdensome since it comes on the heels of the nearly 60 property tax increase approved by Sanpete County last year.

Work on sports park going well; officials eager

John Hales

Staff writer

8/3/2017

 

MANTI—Construction is progressing nicely on the future Manti City Sports Complex, even despite the fact that until last week the city did not have a permit to do work on a portion of the sports-park site that is in Sanpete County’s jurisdiction.

“Construction is proceeding as planned — no surprises or delays,” said Manti City Manager Kent Barton.

It will still be the better part of a year before play can take place on the fields-to-be but, Barton said, “We are super excited with the progress that is taking place, as you now see the backstops rising and can start to gain a vision of how the complex will be set up.”

So excited, in fact, that the city may have jumped the gun a little bit by going forward with work on a portion of the site that, though owned by the city, has not yet been annexed and is therefore still subject to Sanpete County land-use regulations.

That means the city needed a conditional-use permit from the Sanpete County Planning Commission — a permit it did not receive until Wednesday, July 19, several weeks after work had commenced.

“They were so anxious to get moving on it that they forgot the procedure,” said Sanpete County Zoning Administrator Scott Olsen.

The sports-complex project involved land deals and exchanges between several owners and entities. Through those, Manti did come to acquire all ownership of the property it needed, but the city didn’t annex any property it did not already own.

On June 7, Manti City officials requested a building permit from the county. Olsen looked at the plans for the site. About 18.6 acres of the property falls outside of Manti city limits.

“That was the first I had seen how it was laid out in the count,” Olsen said.

The zoning for the area is residential-agricultural; recreational facilities are not a permitted use in that zone, so Manti needed a conditional-use-permit.

By that time, though, the city was already almost six weeks into the project, having broken ground on it on April 28.

Olsen says he told Manti officials, “Hey, you guys are out of line here,” and told them they needed the conditional-use permit.

On Tuesday, Olsen said he recognized that most folks would wonder what the big deal was. “You’re talking ballfield use,” he said. “What impact does it really have? I don’t know that it has a lot of impact. I just felt that it needed to be there … then the requirements of our ordinances are met, so that nobody comes back to me and says, ‘Why didn’t you?’”

Manti City recognized the error, and dutifully fulfilled its obligation to the county to get the permit, which Olsen called “a formality.”

Olsen agreed that it really is a case of no-harm no-foul. But, he said, “In reality, the city should have had already in place annexation processes. It would have made it less complicated.”

Manti’s Barton agreed it would have been easier in one respect, but that “It wasn’t a big deal to go through the permitting.”

A bigger deal, he indicated, would have been an annexation. “Annexation is a process that takes quite a bit of time, so we didn’t want to wait on the project while that happened.”

He added, however, that, “At some point, we’ll look at annexing. That’s our plan.”

In the meantime, the complex’s five baseball fields have been formed and topsoil applied; footings for the batter’s box backstops have been formed and poles erected; foundation footings and utility infrastructure has been installed for the concessions building; curb and gutter for parking lots have been installed; the sprinkler system is nearly completed; and electrical lines have been put in place for lighting and scoreboards.

“We are still hoping to plant the grass in September,” Manti’s Barton said, “and then the fields will need to be rested for a year before play occurs in order to allow the grass to become firmly established.”

Though it took some work and negotiating to consolidate the site (Manti Mayor Korry Soper once described it as “a miracle” that it all came together), city officials are looking forward to some big aesthetic dividends.

“We couldn’t be happier with the setting we selected for the facility,” Barton said. “It will be very accessible and visible, and offers great views of the mountains, temple and surrounding area.”

Security-camera footage shows the face of a man police believe was involved in a string of car burglaries and thefts, including guns, between July 22-23.

Fairview police seek help to identify car theif

 

Clara Hatcher

Staff writer

8/3/2017

 

FAIRVIEW—Recently, Fairview City played unwilling host to a series of auto burglaries that investigators believe to be connected.

In just one of the estimated seven cars subject to theft over July 22-23, more than $4,000, electronics and shotguns were stolen. Fairview City police have requested that any information on the suspect, whose picture was posted on the Fairview City Facebook page, be called into the police department.

All of the cars in question were unlocked at the time of theft, according to Fairview City Police Chief Bob Bingham. There have been no tips reported on the suspect so far in the investigation.

On the night of the burglaries, Rachel Hendrickson was watching city fireworks until past midnight with her family. Hendrickson said that, because she usually feels safe in Fairview, she had left her car, which was parked in front of her mother-in-law’s house near 400 N. 100 East, unlocked overnight.

Her seven dogs, housed in the truck’s insulated camper shell, did not bark while the man stole two shotguns, $500 cash, Hendrickson’s wallet and her Cannon T5 camera from the vehicle. The pistol on Hendrickson’s backseat, various chargers and her son’s tablet on the front passenger seat remained untouched.

Hendrickson first noticed something was off on Sunday morning, following the night of the fireworks.

“My husband was letting the dog out, and I noticed napkins [from the car] lying on the road,” Hendrickson said. “I opened the door, and the center console had been gone through. I looked in the glove box and my wallet was gone.”

By the time Hendrickson had checked in with her debit and credit card companies, two unauthorized transactions had cleared before a block could be placed on her cards.

According to Hendrickson, the man tried four more times to place various purchases costing $500 to $600. The suspect had also attempted to purchase a flight for $290 from Orbitz and had successfully purchased a Spotify music subscription with Hendrickson’s debit card.

“If I was going to steal a wallet I would be in a pretty desperate situation,” Hendrickson said, attempting to analyze the situation. “I’d be buying food for my kids.”

Hendrickson said that there were four other cars parked near hers with guns and money in them. Unfortunately, she said, hers had been the only unlocked vehicle in the area.

Chief Bingham said that while it is not uncommon for the city to be host to sporadic burglaries, this particular case is unusual due to the number of thefts in such a short time span.

“This one was kind of a string of them all at once,” Bingham said. “I’ve never had this many at one time.”

The same Sunday that Hendrickson realized her car had been broken into, Tyler Schlappi was realizing his CentraCom company car had been stolen.

Schlapphi, who is a sales representative for CentraCom, had left the car keys on the floor of the driver’s side after moving the vehicle to make room for family. The car was left unlocked.

“Once I found the car was gone I obviously went and tried to backtrack – Did I leave it at Walmart and have my wife pick me up? Or [had I] gotten the oil changed?” Schlappi said.

Once Schlappi realized the car had been stolen, he reached out to law enforcement. Chief Bingham told Schlappi that another car had been stolen just four blocks from his home as well.

Schlappi said that he just did not question it when the population of Fairview nearly tripled for the holiday celebrations. “It was a busy holiday weekend with everyone’s friends and family over,” he said.

There is no information on where Schlappi’s company vehicle might have ended up at the time of press.

“From there [taking the issue to law enforcement] it’s just a waiting game,” Schlappi said. “As far as lessons learned, I made the mistake of leaving the keys on the floor.”

Fairview police request that any information on the suspect be reported to Fairview City at 427-3858 or 427-3535.

Preliminary hearing in Wes Nay murder case not to happen until December

 

Greg Knight

Staff writer

8/3/2017

 

PROVO—Wesley Nay’s alleged killer is scheduled for preliminary hearing on Dec. 12 in 4th District Court in Provo.

Raul F. Vidrio, 20, also of Mt. Pleasant, is charged with aggravated murder in the stabbing death of Wesley Dee Nay, 22. Nay’s body was discovered in a shallow grave near a remote part of Indianola Hills in October, just over the Utah County line from Sanpete County.

According to Utah County Deputy Public Defender Thomas Means, the delay in getting to the preliminary hearing stage is due to nature of the investigation his team is conducting on behalf of Vidrio.Dec

“A case like this needs to have lots and lots of investigation done on our part,” Means said. “We need to make sure we do our due diligence and do what is in the best interest of Mr. Vidrio. This case came along too fast for us to complete our side of the investigation in time, so this new date for the preliminary hearing will give us time to complete our investigation.”

Nay’s family reported him as missing mid-September. Hunters in the area discovered his remains.

In addition to the fatal stab wounds, a Utah County medical examiner discovered that Nay’s body, which had also been burned, suffered extensive blunt force trauma.

Vidrio was charged on Nov. 15, while incarcerated at the Utah County Jail on unrelated charges.

According to court documents, Vidrio was previously arrested in early September after being pulled over in a stolen vehicle. During a search of that vehicle, investigators found a backpack that contained a sheathed knife that tested positive for Nay’s DNA.

Police discovered an image that allegedly showed Nay being forced to dig his own grave after reviewing files on Vidrio’s cell phone.

Vidrio remains incarcerated at the Utah County Jail on the charges of first-degree aggravated murder, second-degree obstruction of justice and third-degree abuse or desecration of a human body. If convicted of the aggravated murder charge, he could face the death penalty, life in prison without parole or an indeterminate prison term of no less than 25 years.

The ten contestants who will compete for the Miss Sanpete crown on Friday are (L-R): Ashytn Childs, Michayla Jackson, Lydia Madsen, Jasmine Alcala, Jillane Olsen, MIss Sanpete 2016 Kaytie Nielson, Senora Childs, Amelia Nell, Bellamy Sorensen, Makenna Cherry and Jordan Henson.

Ten to compete for Miss Sanpete crown on Friday

 

Robert Stevens

Managing editor

8/3/2017

 

MANTI —This year’s queen bee for the whole county will be chosen Friday at Manti High School when a new Miss Sanpete is crowned.

The new queen and her attendants will reign over the upcoming Sanpete County Fair.

“I am so excited this year to have worked with some new young ladies and those with devotion and drive to come back and compete again,” said pageant director Emily L. Cox of Manti.

“We see contestants come and compete for many reasons, including a desire to serve within their community, experience personal growth and build upon the competitive spirit that can carry them to the Miss Utah Stage next June—and, most importantly, the scholarship.

Cox says the new Miss Sanpete County will receive a $2,000 scholarship to the school of her choice to help further her education. Attendants receive amounts ranging from $200 to $500 to be applied towards college.

The soon-to-be crowned Miss Sanpete also receives a $1,000 wardrobe allowance to help her compete at the state pageant, says Cox.

“As the only franchised Miss America local pageant in our county, we believe in the four points of the crown—service, scholarship, success and style—and want to encourage those to compete, learn public relationship skills and ways to be a contributing member of their community.”

Watching contestants step out of their comfort zones and learn important life skills is, Cox said, “a joy to watch.”

There are 10 contestants in this year’s pageant; their profiles are below.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. at MHS and adult tickets are $6, with tickets for children 4-11 years of age costing $4 and kids under four are free. Each adult ticket will receive a program with additional programs costing $1.

Exiting the stage on Friday as the current Miss Sanpete will be Kaytie Nielson.

“We have been very lucky to have our outgoing Queen Kaytie Nielson of Fairview as our representative this year,” said Cox. “She has done a lot of service, helped us to grow our program and brought a kind light to all that she has done this year as our Miss Sanpete 2016.”

For more information about the pageant, please email misssanpetecounty@gmail.com, or contact Emily Cox at 435-851-0316 or Anne Fonville 801-362-1038.

 

Amelia Nell

Amelia Nell is the daughter of Alan and Kathy Nell of Ephraim. Amelia will perform a jazz dance to “Black Dog” and her platform is “Be Bright, Eat Right.”

Cox said, “Her service platform is to bring awareness to nutrition with healthy snacking choices and habits and how foods should be consumed and chosen in relation to its affect on our bodies, energy and overall health.”

 

Jasmine Alcala

Jasmine Alcala, daughter of Martin and ClairAnn Alcala of Manti, is competing with a talent of lyrical dance to “I Was Here.” Jasmine’s platform is “Every Girl is a Princess”

Cox says Jasmine’s platform is based upon growing young girls’ education, and finding ways to build self-esteem, and positive ways to cope that don’t lead to self damaging habits.

 

Makenna Cherry

Makenna Cherry is the daughter of Justin and Sharon Cherry of Ephraim. Makenna will perform a jazz dance to “Brand New” and compete on the platform “Have Courage and Be Kind.”

“Her service platform is based upon being a hero in everyday life,” said Cox, “through small kind acts that build upon one another, sharing and inspiring others to do the same and have courage in their daily choices to choose kindness.”

 

Michayla Jackson

Michayla Jackson, daughter of Mitchell and Kerrie of Milburn, will perform gymnastics and tumbling routine as her talent. Her platform is “H.E.R.O: Honoring, Education, Respect Others.”

“Michayla will focus on ways to honor who you are and the talents you have, “Cox said.

 

Lydia Madsen

Lydia Madsen, daughter of Jeremy and Jessica Madsen of Fairview, will perform vocals to “Don’t Forget Me.”

Lydia’s platform, “Lend a Hand,” is all about encouraging service and leading by example, says Cox.

 

Jillane Olsen

Jillane Olsen, daughter of Scott and Melissa Olsen of Manti, will perform a piano solo to “Waterfall” by Jon Schmidt.

Her platform is “Read to Succeed, “which will be an effort to raise support for reading across various age groups,” Cox said.

 

Jordan Henson

Jordan Henson, daughter of Abby and Jeremy Ivory, and Jeremy Henson of Fountain Green, plans to do an American Sign Language interpretive dance solo to “Let Them See You.”

Jordan is partnering with Autism Speaks  to  compete with the platform “4 Points of the Puzzle: Autism Speaks,” where she will try to advocate for the autistic and reduce social stigma, Cox says.

 

Ashytn Childs

Ashytn Childs, daughter of Gary and Anne Childs of Gunnison, will perform a jazz dance as her talent, and is competing on the platform “Be uniquely You.”

Ashytn says she wants to encourage others to be themselves, no matter if they have a disease or disability.

 

Bellamy Sorensen

Bellamy Sorensen, daughter of Thomas and Candice Sorensen of Centerfield, is performing a self-arranged piano solo to “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by The Piano Guys and “Etude” by Kabalevsky.

Her platform is “Unplug,” an effort to inspire others to back away from their devices and find some balance and moderation in their use.

 

Senora Childs

Senora Childs, daughter of Kennith and Wendilyn Childs of Centerfield, will perform a dance solo to a mix of the music of Michael Jackson. Her platform is “Heroes 4 Heroes.”

“Senora hopes to implement a platform that focuses upon having a club to celebrate and honor unsung every day heroes,” Cox said.