Utah Woman Charged With Child Kidnapping Her Own Grandson

A Heber, Utah woman was arrested and charged with child kidnapping after she took her own grandson and fled the state.

Unauthorized trip with Grandma

56 year old Donna E. Jones was arrested last week after she took her almost 2 year old grandson and fled the state of Utah. Jones, who is the child’s paternal grandmother, was located along with her grandchild over 1200 miles away in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The child’s mother had just been awarded full custody of the child and police have determined that the non-custodial father helped the grandmother in the kidnapping following the court proceedings which were not in his favor.

First degree child kidnapping

Although the grandchild suffered no injuries on his unauthorized trip with grandma and was with a known family member and not a stranger, Donna E. Jones is still facing anywhere from 5 years to life in prison. Child kidnapping is a first degree felony and is defined under Utah Code 76-5-301.1 as when a person “intentionally or knowingly, without authority of law, and by any means and in any manner, seizes, confines, detains, or transports a child under the age of 14 without the consent of the victim’s parent or guardian”. In the case of Donna Jones, she had consent of a parent, just not the parent with custodial rights.

Stranger danger

While the mention of child kidnapping brings to mind a stranger snatching up a child while a parent isn’t watching, stranger abductions really only account for about one-fourth of all child kidnappings. According the National Crime Information Center, almost half of all child kidnapping cases are of children taken by a family member. In the majority of cases, the family member charged with child kidnapping is the non-custodial parent, but could involve other family such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even siblings.

Prison time for disagreeing with court decisions

Child custody hearings can often leave one parent or other relatives feeling like they got the short end of the stick. Unfortunately, family members may act irrationally for fear of not seeing the children as often as they would like. For anyone facing child kidnapping charges for making a bad decision following a child custody hearing, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Killing Protected Animals in Utah

There are several species of protected animals that can be found in Utah and  killing any can result in state or federal charges.

Protection for all

Photo by: Ben Johnson

Photo by: Ben Johnson

All creatures, whether wild or domesticated, are protected from torture or other non-humane acts under Utah Code 76-9-301 which defines specific crimes related to animal cruelty. This law ensures that no animal suffers unwarranted pain and suffering and that domesticated animals are properly cared for and supplied with the necessities of life they require. Domesticated animals can include companion pets such dogs and cats and also farmed animals like swine and cattle. Cattle and other livestock are protected under this law yet can be bred and raised for the sole purpose of killing them for meat and other products destined for human consumption and use.

Hunting wild animals

Photo: m01229

Photo: m01229

Livestock are not the only animals with targets on them. Although Utah Code 23-13-3 declared that “all wildlife existing within this state, not held by private ownership and legally acquired, is the property of the state”, hunting is permitted as long as appropriate licensing and permits are acquired. There are numerous types of wild animals in Utah that can be hunted for sport such as rabbits, squirrel, duck, and fish. These are legal to hunt as long as the shooter has a current hunting and/or fishing license. Other wild animals including deer, elk, turkey, and cougar require additional permits and are only able to be killed during set seasons. In addition to taking home a stuffed trophy or game meat, killing of some animals brings a cash reward. This is the case in Utah for coyotes that have caused extensive damage to livestock and the mule deer population. According to Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, “The DWR predator-control program provides incentives for hunters to remove coyotes. Participants receive $50 for each properly documented coyote that they kill in Utah.”

Endangered Species Act

Not all wild animals are permitted to be hunted. Any animals listed as endangered or threatened are protected by either state or federal laws. The Endangered Species Act was passed in the early 70’s to protect species which are threatened with extinction and their habitats in which they dwell. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated in a list reported in early 2015 that there are nearly twenty endangered or threatened animals commonly found in Utah including: the Utah prairie dog, the desert tortoise, the gray wolf, and bald or golden eagles. They warn that it is illegal “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect or attempt to engage in any such conduct” with any animal listed on the ESA. Those found guilty of intentional killing or “taking” any protected animals will be fined up to $50,000 and/or a year imprisoned.

Accidental killing of protected animals

Protected animals

Photo by: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Although purposely or negligently killing protected animals is likely to be followed by charges, anyone who unintentionally kills or injures an endangered animal may not face criminal penalties. Two different instances have occurred in Utah since late 2014 that resulted in the deaths of protected gray wolves. Both happened at the hands of hunters; One by accidental shooting while mistaking the wolf for a coyote and the other when the animal became trapped in a cougar snare. Both hunters were found not guilty as it was not their intention to harm the protected animals and they reported it immediately to authorities.

Report from a distance

If a protected animal has been killed unintentionally or found deceased it is important to stay clear from the carcass in case poisons were used or if a disease is present. Additionally it is imperative to never remove any part of the animal’s remains as that alone can bring criminal charges. Anyone in possession of protected animal remains such a bald eagle feather will be charged extensively by state or federal laws. For more information on state or federal laws regarding wildlife or to report the death of a protected animal notify the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For legal counsel regarding charges contact a criminal defense attorney.

Sexual Assault on College Campus

A former Utah State University frat brother pleaded guilty yesterday to two cases of sexual assault that took place on and near the college campus.

Stealing bases

Photo by: Valeria C★Preisler

Photo by: Valeria C★Preisler

27 year old Jason Brian Relopez was arrested after two women came forward stating that on separate incidents Relopez had sexually forced himself on them. Both women made out with Relopez voluntarily, however he was the only one tolerable with taking things to the next level. One incident happened in 2014 during a private study night while the other happened in 2015 at a frat party at the Sigma Chi House.

Marked for life

Relopez, a former student at Utah State University, pleaded guilty to a plea deal that reduced his charges from aggravated rape and sexual assault to attempted rape and forcible sexual abuse. Although the settled charges don’t save him from a first degree felony, there is a chance he may get probation instead. Either way, he will be on the sex offender registry for the remainder of his life.

No means “no”

When engaging in sexual relations with another person, it is always advised to get verbal consent first. The victim from the 2014 incident did state that she told Relopez she did not want to have sex with him. Regarding the sexual assault that took place at the frat house in 2015 however, the victim never told Relopez “no” but she also did not give him consent to make sexual advances on her. Both instances can be considered sexual assault because in both cases, consent was not given. While a verbal “no” is a clear dispute to consent, not saying anything which could happen due to fear or alcohol or drug abuse, should be considered a negative as well.

Sexual assault at college

Photo by: Miles Gehm

Photo by: Miles Gehm

Sexual assault is a serious issue and college campuses are not immune to the problem. There have been recent statistics that state over 20 percent of young college students have been victims of sexual assault. Although a high number of those sexual assaults on campus are noted to be from serial rapists with malicious intent, there are occasional instances when there could be grave miscommunications that end in charges. College parties where young adults mingle with excess amounts of alcohol are times when things could get out of hand unintentionally. Some ways to avoid such horrific errors are:

• Both parties should be clear on their intentions and observe the other person for hints of hesitation.

• Reduce the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed. When people overdrink, they are less likely to read situations correctly.

• If alcohol is on the menu, have a designated sober friend to attend parties with. The person not drinking can help distinguish if things are getting out of control.

• Keep a drug free party zone. Date rape drugs are given such a nickname due to the fact that it makes the other party unable to give consent, even if they voluntarily take the pill to begin with. On a related note, discard unattended drinks.

• Always get consent. Always.

Sexual offenses without consent

Utah code 76-5-406 states that sexual offenses are “without consent of the victim [if] the victim expresses lack of consent through words or conduct; the actor overcomes the victim through ( . . . ) physical force or violence; the actor is able to overcome the victim through concealment or by the element of surprise; the actor coerces the victim to submit by threatening to retaliate ( . . . ); the actor knows the victim is unconscious, unaware that the act is occurring, or physically unable to resist; ( . . .) the actor intentionally impaired the power of the victim to appraise or control his or her conduct by administering any substance without the victim’s knowledge; ( . . . )”

Time of your life, or away for life

College is supposed to be the time of your life. Sexual assault charges such as rape or forcible sexual abuse can bring mean the rest of your life in jail. For legal aid regarding sexual offense charges, contact a criminal defense attorney.