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Sex abuses charges dismissed, but so is Utah man’s career in nursing

Courts • Judge threw out evidence after defense lawyer argued the investigation was bad.

Joshua Shumway

For Joshua Shumway, nothing is the same as it was two years ago, before a police officer came to his Salt Lake City apartment and arrested him.

Before prosecutors charged him with sexual abuse, rape, sodomy and assault.

Before he sat in a jail cell for two days and a police officer used their mutual faith in the Mormon church to coerce him to utter half-hearted admissions to crimes that he says he never committed.

Before all this, Shumway was a 26-year-old registered nurse. Now, he works construction jobs for a family member and lives in a motorhome in Orem.

Last week, all 11 of the charges against him were dismissed at the request of Uintah County prosecutors — after a judge ruled earlier this year that most of the evidence against Shumway would be suppressed at trial because of a botched police investigation.

On Thursday, Shumway said he felt relief.

"You wait for two years for what should have never happened," he said. "It's a relief, but it's a little slow. Nothing changes. I still wake up, I still live in a motorhome. I go to a different job, but I still pay attorney fees."

The case against him • The alleged victim told police that on April 16, 2013, she was staying overnight at the Uintah Basin Medical Center in Roosevelt following a hysterectomy. During the night, a male nurse came into her room and sexually assaulted her on five occasions, she told police.

Investigators determined Shumway had been working that night and, based on a medication log, had administered a drug to the victim.

Shumway said Thursday that he was one of two male nurses working the floor that night. But his defense attorney, Greg Lamb, said his client did not match the description that the woman gave police. He said he's not sure if the medicated woman hallucinated the incident, or if someone else victimized her.

Police "made zero attempts to interview anybody else to see who worked there," Lamb said. "The description was only partially similar to Josh's. He doesn't have a tattoo, he didn't smell like smoke. Moles were not in the same place."

But the police investigation somehow settled on Shumway, and he was arrested that December and held in a jail cell alone for hours. While he was there, Roosevelt police Detective Pete Butcher interviewed him, telling him that non-existent semen samples, DNA and fingerprints tied him to the assault. He also used their mutual beliefs in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to coerce a confession, according to court papers.

"My faith is always something that I've taken very seriously," Shumway told The Tribune. "…Very early on, this was something [Butcher] jumped on. He sees my scriptures, he gathers that I'm LDS. My confused mind had a very hard time. He's talking about things that I agree with, but then adding in all these lies, this non-existent evidence. He was using that faith to calm me down. Now, I'm utterly outraged."

According to court papers, Shumway never outright admitted to the crimes, but told Butcher that he "must have done it," and wrote a letter of apology to the victim at the detective's request.

Earlier this year, Judge Edwin Peterson ruled that these admissions would not be allowed at trial, citing coercive and manipulative investigation techniques. The judge also ruled that he would not allow the alleged victim to identify Shumway at trial because the identification process was also tainted.

The patient was never shown a photo lineup, the judge wrote, and the first time she was asked to identify her assailant was during a preliminary hearing last year. Shumway was the only person seated at the defense table with a lawyer, "having obviously been charged with the crime," the judge wrote in June.

This ruling caused prosecutors to ask for the case to be dismissed last week, saying in court papers that they no longer had a means of identifying Shumway as the alleged perpetrator. The charges were dismissed with prejudice, meaning they cannot be refiled.

Neither Deputy Duchesne County Attorney Grant Charles nor Roosevelt police officials returned phone calls seeking comment on the case.

Lamb called the police investigation "shoddy," saying he has never seen a case like this in his 15 years of practicing criminal law, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney.

"It was a foregone conclusion two years ago where this would end up," he said. "In a dismissal. … It was a nightmare and my client's life has been upended."

Where to go from here • While he sat in that jail cell, Shumway said a representative of the Utah Department of Professional Licensing visited him and told him he had to sign papers giving up his nursing license because of the alleged crimes.

"I wasn't informed I had a choice," he said. "I didn't have an attorney present. They assured me I would get my license back if this all went away."

As of Friday, Shumway's license is still considered "surrendered," according to the department's records. He said he's working to get that license back as "a statement," but said he probably won't work as a nurse again.

"They didn't have the right to take it," he said. "I don't know if I can go back into nursing and ever feel comfortable again."

For now, Shumway said he's looking at different careers, and may be going back to school soon. The case, he said, has left emotional scars.

"[This] will damage a person," he said of the charges. "It took a long time for me to deal with the bitterness and the rage and sometimes I'm not all that good at it. It strained family relationships. I'm not the same person I was. Religiously, there were complications and implications that changed the way I participate in my own church. It changed everything."

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller

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