PROVO—The Utah County’s Sherriff ’s Office is asking people in Sanpete County who have knowledge of ritualistic sex abuse and trafficking from the years of 1990 to 2010, especially possible victims, to contact the office’s Special Victims Unit. The number is (801) 851-4010.
Ritualistic sex abuse, meaning organized, long-term, ongoing or frequent abuse, may or may not be religiously oriented, according to Sgt. Spencer Cannon, public information officer for the Utah County’s Sheriff’s Office. Cannon said he could neither confirm nor deny that the ring the Sheriff ’s Office is investigating is religiously oriented.
The abuse and trafficking under investigation also consisted of grooming young children and taking advantage of children who asked for help.
In a press release, the Utah County Sheriff ’s Office stated that it is investigating abuse and trafficking allegations that occurred in Utah, Juab and Sanpete counties in the 20-year timeframe. The press release said some of the allegations had been substantiated.
The Utah County investigation took an unusual turn last week when Utah County Attorney David Leavitt held a press conference accusing Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith of linking him to the case. Leavitt claimed Smith was, in essence, making a political attack against him right before the election. He also called for Smith to resign.
In the press conference, Leavitt referred to a decade-old case where he and his wife were named as suspects for cannibalizing and murdering young children.
The case involved a woman who made claims against 15 to 20 Utahns. He and his wife were named in a 151-page document, which Leavitt said he had learned about recently for the first time. The document was posted on line by a man Leavitt’s office had charge with rape in January.
The man, Nicholas Rossi, has charges in several states and even faked his own death to escape them. He was found in Scotland living under the name Arthur Knight prior to his arrest.
Leavitt said release of the document, timed with the Utah County Sheriff ’s Office press release, was part of a scheme by Sheriff Smith to damage Leavitt’s public image.
Smith denied Leavitt’s claims, saying, “This is not a politically motivated investigation” and “Leavitt is using his authority and his pulpit to bully, to distract from and mischaracterize the facts of an ongoing investigation.”
Smith called Leavitt’s claims “alarming,” stating that they are potentially dangerous to the investigation.