Man charged in connection with Utah County sheriff’s ‘ritualistic’ sex abuse investigation

The investigation shifted the focus of the Utah County Attorney’s race earlier this year, after David Leavitt publicly tied himself to the case.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith speaks during a news conference Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Spanish Fork, saying he won’t be resigning after Utah County Attorney David Leavitt accused him of using his office for political gain earlier in the day, by connecting the prosecutor to a “ritualistic” sex ring investigation. Smith's office announced on Wednesday that they arrested a 66-year-old former therapist in connection with the investigation.

Months after a ritualistic sex abuse investigation disrupted the election for county attorney, a former therapist at the center of the allegations has been arrested, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office confirmed.

David Hamblin, 68, was charged Thursday with multiple counts of sodomy of a child, rape of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child and lewdness involving a child. He was arrested the day prior, and remains in the Utah County jail without the opportunity to post bail.

In arrest documents, law enforcement authorities say that a woman came forward in April alleging she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Hamblin, who was her neighbor, in the mid-1980s. She described to police an instance when she and two other children were in the man’s basement and were forced to perform a sex act “while he critiqued and criticized their abilities.” She estimated she was 6 or 7 years old at that time.

“The victim described the shame that she felt and her confusion at the time,” a probable cause statement reads. “The two other child victims who were present when the assault occurred have both been interviewed and have corroborated what this victim has disclosed.”

The woman also described to an investigator another alleged assault about a year later, when Hamblin allegedly forced her headfirst into a sleeping bag before sexually assaulting her. She alleged a third instance occurred when she was 13 years old, saying the former therapist forced her to perform a sex act on a woman in his bedroom.

The Utah County Sheriff’s Office announced a month after the woman made these statements that its investigators were looking into “ritualistic sex abuse” allegations that date back to the decades between 1990 and 2010 and span Utah, Juab and Sanpete counties.

It’s not clear from arrest records what elements the sheriff’s office considered “ritualistic,” but a deputy noted in the document that it is an ongoing investigation that involves other alleged victims.

The sheriff’s investigation became central to the Utah County Attorney race after David Leavitt publicly tied himself to it shortly after it was announced, telling reporters at a June news conference that he was named in a report from that time period that he said was connected to the case.

That report, which The Tribune obtained through a public records request, includes an unverified witness statement from an alleged victim who accused Hamblin and more than a dozen others, including Leavitt, of taking part in a ritualistic child abuse, murder and cannibalism cult that she said she witnessed as a child.

Hamblin faced charges more than a decade ago for child sex abuse accusations involving that alleged victim, but they were dropped in 2014 after prosecutors said they were having trouble getting medical records and other documents to corroborate her report.

The person who made the allegations in that witness statement is not the same alleged victim in the new allegations that led to Hamblin’s arrest this week.

Leavitt, who eventually lost his bid for reelection, said in June that he felt the timing of the announcement of the ritual sex abuse investigation was suspicious. Sheriff Mike Smith has been at odds with Leavitt since he took office in 2019, Leavitt said. Smith had endorsed challenger Jeff Gray in the county attorney race.

The sheriff in June denied the investigation was politically motivated.

Leavitt does have ties to Hamblin. He said at his June press conference that they were once neighbors and the therapist was his elders quorum president in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing records show Hamblin gave up his psychologist license in 2000 after admitting he “had intimate relationships with several patients during clinical therapy sessions and claimed to some of these patients that the intimacy was therapeutic to them.”

Authorities allege in arrest documents that the man may be continuing to perform “therapy” under the guise of “healing circles.”

Juab County Attorney Ryan Peters will prosecute the latest allegations, according to the sheriff’s office, as a deputized special prosecutor with the Utah attorney general’s office. The AG’s office has been involved in investigating Hamblin, according to previous court testimony.