Gunnison abuse cases not sensationalized, may be resolved in January, attorney says
By Suzanne Dean
MANTI— The cases of three youths charged in a sexual assault last September at Gunnison Valley High School are still open but may be resolved in January, according to the Sanpete County deputy county attorney.
But meanwhile, Wes Mangum says there is little to no merit to allegations that some of the families who initiated complaints against the three boys, and against one boy in particular, have sensationalized the incidents.
One of the youths who had a single charge of forcible sexual abuse has admitted to the offense, Mangum said. The court is waiting for a report designed to aid in disposition of the case. The deputy county attorney said he expected the case to be concluded in January.
A second youth who has also been charged with one count of forcible sexual abuse has a hearing in January and is expected to either admit or deny the charge at that time, Mangum said.
The youth with the most serious charges—six counts of object rape, all first-degree felonies, and five counts of forcible sexual abuse, second-degree felonies, has a pretrial hearing in January. That could be a prelude to resolving his case.
The Messenger has received anonymous calls saying at least one of the families bringing charges is in a religious congregation headed by Officer Carl Wimmer, the school resource officer who has been the lead investigator.
One caller said many of the 70-plus people who appeared at a South Sanpete School Board meeting in November hoped and expected the school board would try to get Wimmer removed from the case. But no one with that viewpoint spoke up at the meeting. The school board ended up assuring people at the meeting that it supported Wimmer
Meanwhile, multiple people have told the Messenger that some members of the LDS ward where the boy with the most serious charges attends have come to the defense of the boy and his parents.
Mangum says the County Attorney’s Office is aware of criticism of Wimmer, but says, “We believe the investigation was done properly.:
Mangum says he has a 30-page report, including statements from at least 20 witnesses, documenting that serious sexual abuse incidents have occurred.
“None of the people down in Gunnison except me and the police have the facts,” he said. “There is a very disturbing pattern here.” He said some people might want to minimize the incidents. “We know otherwise.”
Mangum added, “It’s very sensitive, very emotional on both sides. This case has kept me up at night more than any case I’ve had so far.”
He said his focus is getting justice for the victims and getting the juvenile perpetrators the help they need. It’s a balance between justice and mercy, he said. “It’s a juggling act.”
He added that he hoped the whole case can be resolved quickly so the community could get on with the healing process.
The case blew open when a freshman football player reported that two boys had held him down after a football practice while a third boy pulled down his pants and rubbed his buttocks and genitalia over the freshman boy’s face.
Subsequently, at least a dozen other Gunnison Valley High School students, both boys and girls, came forward to report similar assaults.