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Former director of Utah funeral home pleads guilty to child pornography charge

Published June 17, 2013 4:35 pm

Courts • Tip led cops to find porn on home and office computers.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A former funeral home director pleaded guilty Monday to one count of production of child pornography.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead tentatively set Spencer Scott McDougal's sentencing for Sept. 4. McDougal, 55, faces a mandatory-minimum prison sentence of 15 years, but could potentially receive a term of up to 30 years.

In exchange for McDougal's plea, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah agreed to drop a second count that alleged he coerced and enticed minors to engage in illegal sexual activity. Ron Yengich, one of several defense attorneys representing McDougal, told Pead that state prosecutors agreed to not pursue any charges against his client as part of the plea deal.

Asked by Pead if he was pleading guilty because he was in fact guilty, McDougal answered "yes" and wept. McDougal is the former director of the McDougal Funeral Home in Taylorsville.

In his plea statement, McDougal admitted that between January and November 2011 he adopted the persona "James Zupo Marsden" and, using an email account, coerced three minors to engage in sexually explicit conduct and send him photos.

In court documents, prosecutors said McDougal claimed to be a 17-year-old who had moved from West Jordan to Idaho. He began corresponding with a teenage girl via Facebook and email. After some months, the girl sent McDougal nude photos taken with her cellphone at his request. A local church leader contacted the Utah Department of Child and Family Services in May 2011 to report that an anonymous person had seen child pornography on McDougal's home computer.

In an interview with police, McDougal admitted setting up a "nanny cam" in places where juveniles changed clothing or were nude, according to a court document. Investigators later found video and images of a minor in various stages of undress on McDougal's home computer as well as sexually explicit images of a teenage girl. A second computer seized from McDougal's private office at the funeral home provided evidence he had transferred several hundred nude photos of minors on his cellphone and thumb drives. Through that data, investigators identified a third victim.

brooke@sltrib.com