Sanpete County prosecutors have filed charges against two boys who allegedly helped their 16-year-old Gunnison Valley High School classmate sexually assault another teenager, setting off an investigation that has revealed at least 13 other alleged assaults.
Since the 16-year-old was charged last week with six counts of first-degree felony object rape and four counts of second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse, five more victims have come forward, said Gunnison Valley police detective Carl Wimmer — and he said it’s a “safe assumption” more will come forward.
The 16-year-old was charged Wednesday with an additional count of forcible sexual abuse, according to amended charging documents. The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify teenagers charged in juvenile court unless they are certified to stand trial as an adult.
The two other teenagers — both now charged with forcible sexual abuse — have only been implicated in one of the alleged assaults, Wimmer said. He didn’t release the teenagers' ages.
That assault allegedly occurred “a few weeks ago,” Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels said. That report opened an investigation into the 16-year-old student, who wrestled and played football and baseball for the small high school. Investigators haven’t released the details of the assault, although Wimmer said the majority took place on school property.
The first alleged assault occurred in October 2017, according to charging documents. One assault was reported in November and December 2017, with two in January. One was reported in March and another in June. Four assaults reportedly occurred on the same day: Sept. 17.
All of the initial nine victims are boys, though Daniels said new reports have also come from girls.
Daniels said the alleged assaults weren’t part of a coordinated event, like in some hazing cases, and the allegations come from students from different social circles.
“We’re dealing with kids in band. We’re dealing with kids that are athletes. We’re dealing with a lot of victims and a diverse [set] of victims,” he said.
Police have not yet gotten an official statement from the 16-year-old, Wimmer said.
The rash of reports have been “absolutely devastating” for the families involved and have rocked the 3,500-person town, Wimmer said.
State education records from the 2016-17 school year show 349 students attended Gunnison Valley High School. According to that number, those who were allegedly assaulted make up about 4 percent of the school’s total enrollment.
"I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Wimmer said.
The school district has brought in crisis counselors for students who need support, Wimmer said.
Officials from South Sanpete School District didn’t respond to The Salt Lake Tribune’s request for comment Friday afternoon. Superintendent Kent Larsen previously said the district is investigating the allegations and their own policies. Larsen also said the 16-year-old wouldn’t be allowed at the school until the case had resolved.
For more information on the alleged assaults or to report an assault, contact the Gunninson Valley Police Department at 435-528-5532.