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Child porn sentencing delayed for former Utah funeral home director

Published August 26, 2013 11:45 am

Courts • Tip led cops to find porn on ex-funeral home director's personal 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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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 federal judge postponed sentencing Monday for Spencer Scott McDougal, a former funeral home director who pleaded guilty in June to one count of production of child pornography.

U.S. District Judge David Nuffer said he was "very concerned about sentencing in this case" because of serious issues at stake for the victims and the defendant. Nuffer said he wanted more time to review the "substantial" material he had received regarding McDougal's case. He reset sentencing for Oct. 4 at 8:30 a.m., telling the packed courtroom the delay would allow him to make a "deliberate" and "considered" decision.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, McDougal faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors are asking Nuffer to sentence McDougal to 25 years in prison because of the nature of his crime, the fact there were multiple female victims, the victims' ages and his position relative to some victims. McDougal's attorneys have asked that he receive the minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years given results of a recent psychosexual evaluation, his physical health and age, his personal history and lack of a previous criminal history.

McDougal, 55, the former director of the McDougal Funeral Home in Taylorsville, appeared to have a handwritten statement ready to read Monday.

In his plea agreement, McDougal admitted that between January and November 2011 he pretended to be a 17-year-old boy from Idaho named "James Zupo Marsden" and, using social media and an email account, coerced three minors to send him sexually explicit photos. Investigators eventually identified four victims, all born in 1995.

In exchange for McDougal's plea, prosecutors agreed to drop a second count that alleged he coerced and enticed minors to engage in illegal sexual activity.

According to prosecutors' sentencing memorandum, McDougal received images from two minors. He gave a third victim a clock radio that, unbeknownst to her, contained a hidden camera equipped with a motion sensor. That camera recorded images of the victim in various stages of undress as well as naked for at least a year.

McDougal also placed a key fob recording device in a bathroom that captured numerous individuals' bathroom activities and, according to the court document, "took sexually explicit photographs of a deceased female" whom investigators have not been able to identify. According to prosecutors, in a text message to one victim sent by his "Marsden" persona, McDougal said he had been in a car accident and then made a follow-up call as Marsden's father to inform the victim that "James" had died.

Prosecutors also argue that given his age at the time he committed his crime, McDougal will "continue to be a risk to the public even in his seventies" — a basis for giving him a longer sentence.

McDougal was arrested after 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. Investigators also found several hundred nude photos of minors on a computer seized from his private office at the funeral home that had been transferred from his cell phone and thumb drives.

brooke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Brooke4Trib