Aggravated sex charges dismissed after victim unavailable to testify
MANTI — Charges of child sex abuse that potentially could have resulted in life in prison have been dismissed without prejudice for lack of cooperation from the victim and the victim’s mother.
John T. Winter, who had been charged with one count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony, had his charges dismissed because the victim of the crime is not available to testify. But the term “without prejudice” means the charges can be brought up again.
Deputy Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels, who is prosecuting the case, said the mother of the victim and the victim no longer live in Sanpete County, and his office has been unable to contact them.
Daniels had expected the case to go to trial about October, 2016. “I felt that the evidence was strong, we were ready to go to trial, but we have to have the testimony of the victim.” he said.
Winter was charged with inappropriate touching of his girlfriend’s daughter, who was 9 years old at the time. The behavior allegedly occurred about five years ago when Winter was living with the girlfriend and the child in Centerfield. Later, the family, including Winter, moved to Grantsville, Tooele County.
In February, 2015, Grantsville police received a call about a domestic problem. According to a probable cause statement, Winter’s girlfriend told the responding officer that after getting drunk, Winter walked into the living room holding a large knife. He told the family he was going to cut all of them with it. Then he slammed the knife down on a table and left the house.
During the investigation into the domestic violence case, family members were interviewed at the Tooele County Children’s Justice Center. It was during those interviews that the sexual abuse three years earlier in Centerfield came out.
Shortly after sentencing on domestic violence charges, Winter was arrested in connection with the alleged sex abuse incident in Centerfield in 2012 and booked into the Sanpete County Jail. Winter was in the jail from July 9, 2015 to March 9, 2016, at which time he posted $20,000 bail and was released.
Ordinarily, the behavior Winter is charged with is a second-degree felony. The reason Daniels charged Winter with aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony that can result in life in prison, was that Winter had been convicted of child sexual abuse before.
In 2007, he pleaded guilty in Salt Lake County to essentially the same behavior with a different victim, was sentenced to a year in jail, and ordered to complete a treatment program. He completed all conditions of probation in 2010.
Daniels said if the victim ever comes back he said he will be ready to re-open the case. That happened in another case Daniels prosecuted in Sanpete County. Initially, the teenage victim refused to testify. But a few years later, she changed her mind, and the perpetrator ended up being sentenced to prison.
Under Utah law, charges of aggravated sexual abuse of a child do not have a statute of limitations. Daniels envisioned a scenario where the child victim could eventually grow into adulthood, and contact the county attorney’s office on her own.
“I’m only 33 years old, I’m not going anywhere. If the victim contacts us, we’ll be ready,” Daniels said.