Charges pressed in multiple sexual assault cases at GVHS
By Suzanne Dean
GUNNISON—A Gunnison Valley High School sophomore and member of the football team is facing serious sex abuse charges in connection with incidents involving multiple student victims and stretching back as far as two years.
Two other students who allegedly joined with the first student in an assault on a freshman football player on Sept. 17 each face a single charge.
The term “hazing” has been thrown out in connection with the case. But Kevin Daniels, Sanpete County attorney, says, “This wasn’t an instance where they made the kids stand up and sing and embarrassing song or wear and embarrassing outfit or something like that. This clearly crossed the line into sexual assault.”
The first boy, the sophomore, is charged with six counts of object rape, all first-degree felonies, and four counts of forcible sexual abuse, all second-degree felonies.
The other two youths are charged with one count each of forcible sexual abuse. Those charges are also second-degree felonies.
Since the youths are juveniles and the case is being brought in juvenile court, the names have not been released.
The Sanpete Messenger does not publish juvenile names except when the juveniles have been bound over to adult court. Transfer to adult court is still a possibility, says Wes Mangum, deputy county attorney and the primary prosecutor on the case.
Misty Cox, the mother of the freshman football player who was the victim in the Sept. 17 incident, told Fox 13 News the three boys tackled and held down her son after football practice.
Then one of the attackers pulled down his pants and rubbed his buttocks and genitalia over her son’s face.
“My son did not consent to this,” she said. “My son was held down against his will and was sexually assaulted.” Because her son was the first to speak up, he will be “the very last victim,” she said.
The freshman boy himself was interviewed by KSL News, although KSL did not give his name. “I felt violated,” he said. “When I think about it, it was like a dream. “Cause you don’t go to school or work everyday and just assume this is going to happen.
“I was lost. I heard that this had happened before. And I didn’t want it to happen again…I wanted it to be stopped. I didn’t want somebody else to go through that, because that’s just wrong. I decided I needed to talk about it.”
The Sept. 17 incident “was really the catalyst to opening up this investigation into things that had been happening for a long time,” Mangum said.
The freshman talked with Carl Wimmer of the Gunnison Valley Police Department, who is the school resource officer.
Over the next 10 days, Wimmer carried out an investigation, which found the sophomore football player had assaulted at least nine boys.
The assaults occurred in multiple locations. Police in Hurricane, Washington County, are looking into whether an incident involving the sophomore occurred in their city.
If there are other victims, “we hope they will come forward,” Mangum said.
Last Friday, Sept. 28, the sophomore boy was arrested and taken to the Central Utah Youth Center in Richfield. After a detention hearing on Monday, he was moved to home confinement.
Superintendent Kent Larsen of the South Sanpete School District said the youth would not be allowed back in school until the case is resolved.
The two other boys who participated in the Sept. 17 assault have not been arrested. But all three boys are scheduled to make an initial appearance Tuesday, Oct. 9 in 6th District Juvenile Court in Manti.
Most of the victims were members of school athletic teams, and many of the attacks occurred on school grounds, but the perpetrators acted as individuals, Mangum said.
The Messenger heard reports that some parents at Gunnison Valley High wanted the football coach removed from that role.
Superintendent Larsen said those complaints grew out of the fact that the football team hasn’t won many games this year and had nothing to do with the sexual assaults.