Southern Utah Man Turns Himself In For Sexual Crimes Against Children

A southern Utah man has been sentenced for his sexual crimes against children after he turned himself him nearly two years ago.

Years of guilt

Hartwig HKD

In October of 2018, Aaron Carthal Schafer of St. George Utah came forward to police to admit he had committed sexual crimes against children. At the time, it does not appear Schafer was a suspect or even remotely on law enforcement’s rader. The reason he came forward was due to years of guilt and a desire to be held accountable for his actions so he could receive the mental help he needed.

Sexual crimes against children

Schafer, who is the father of five children according to social media posts by family members was sentenced this month to multiple sexual crimes against children. He was originally charged with three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and one count of sodomy of a child but the later charged was dropped as he pled guilty to the other three charges.

Sexual abuse of a child

Schafer was sentenced for three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. According to Utah Code 76-5-404.1, “An individual commits sexual abuse of a child if, under circumstances not amounting to rape of a child, object rape of a child, sodomy on a child, or an attempt to commit any of these offenses, the actor touches the anus, buttocks, pubic area, or genitalia of any child, the breast of a female child, or otherwise takes indecent liberties with a child, with intent to cause substantial emotional or bodily pain to any individual or with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any individual regardless of the sex of any participant.”

Enhanced aggravated charges

Photo by: Connor Tarter

That section goes on to note that “An individual commits aggravated sexual abuse of a child when . . . any of the following circumstances have been charged and admitted or found true in the action for the offense [along with the above]:
The offense was committed by the use of a dangerous weapon . . . or by force, duress, violence, intimidation, coercion, menace, or threat of harm, or was committed during the course of a kidnapping;

  1. The accused caused bodily injury or severe psychological injury to the victim during or as a result of the offense;
  2. The accused was a stranger to the victim or made friends with the victim for the purpose of committing the offense;
  3. The accused used, showed, or displayed pornography or cause the victim to be photographed in a lewd condition during the course of the offense;
  4. The accused . . . was previously convicted of any sexual offense;
  5. The accused committed the same or similar sexual act upon two or more victims at the same time or during the same course of conduct;
  6. The accused committed . . . more than five separate acts . . . at the same time, or during the same course of conduct, or before or after the instant offense;
  7. The offense was committed by an individual who occupied a position of special trust in relation to the victim;
  8. The accused encouraged, aided, allowed, or benefited from acts of prostitution or sexual acts by the victim with any other individual, or sexual performance by the victim before any other individual, human trafficking, or human smuggling; or
  9. The accused cause the penetration, however slight, or the genital or anal opening of the child by any part or parts of the human body other than the genitals or mouth.”

Public documents do not state who the victims are, however they do note that Schafer abused at least one of the children while showering with them which may indicate it was one of his children. If this is true, this could mean Schaffer was a parent of the victim, or a subsection ‘h’ states “. . .a person of special trust in relation to the victim”. It is unknown exactly which subsection applies specifically to Schafer’s case or if more than one is applicable.

At least 6 years behind bars

While sexual abuse of a child is a second degree felony, punishable by one to 15 years in prison, aggravated sexual abuse is a first degree felony punishable by six years to as long as life in prison. The shorter sentence of six to ten years is applicable as long as the victim did not suffer any serious bodily injuries and the accused is not guilty of any previous“grievous sexual offense. Schafer was sentenced to six years with at least nine months served. While the judge was appalled at his behavior toward the young children, he did credit him with his honestly in coming forward on his own.

Child Endangerment Charges For Utah Mom Who Threw Underage Drinking Party

A Utah mom who threw an underage drinking party for her son and his friends is being charged with child endangerment after one of the party goers died.

Contributing to the delinquency of a minor

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40 year old Kristina Teresa Valdez was throwing a birthday party for her teenage son at their Kearns, Utah home when she told one of her son’s friends to leave. The teens were enjoying alcohol and drugs while under the care of Valdez when the friend started acting belligerent. After being kicked out into the cold with only light clothing on, the 17 year old boy passed out in a nearby field and died, possibly from exposure. The teen’s parents assumed he had run way and searched for him for over two weeks before his body was discovered. An autopsy revealed the teen had been intoxicated and under the influence of marijuana. Valdez was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and child endangerment.

Child endangerment

Not only was Valdez charged with letting the teenagers have alcohol, she is also facing charges for allegedly letting them use marijuana while in her home. This is considered child endangerment which is punishable as a first, second, or third degree felony. Utah code 76-5-112.5 states regarding child endangerment:

  • “. . . a person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if the person knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child or a vulnerable adult to be exposed to, inhale, ingest, or have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia;
  • . . . a person is guilty of a felony of the second degree, if: the person engages in the conduct described [above]; and as a result of the conduct . . . a child or a vulnerable adult suffers bodily injury, substantial bodily injury, or serious bodily injury; or
  • a person is guilty of a felony of the first degree, if: the person engages in the conduct described [above]; and as a result of the conduct . . . a child or a vulnerable adult dies.”

Photo by: Tony Webster

Although the teen died after Valdez kicked him out of the party drunk and high, she is only facing a third degree felony instead of a first degree felony. Parents are encouraged to not use illegal activity as a way to be the “cool parent”.Those parents who are facing charges for allowing children to break the law in their home should consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Aggravated Murder Charges For Utah Uncle Who Kidnapped 5 Year old Niece

An uncle who is the prime suspect in the kidnapping of a 5 year old Utah girl has been arrested for aggravated murder and other charges related to his niece’s disappearance.

Missing child

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The family of 5 year old Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley woke up the morning of Saturday May 25, 2019 to discover the front door to the family home open with their 5 year old no where to be found. Also missing was the 21 year old uncle of Shelley who had stayed the night at the family’s home the night before. After hours of searching, 21 year old Alex Whipple was located walking miles away from the home with no sign of his 5 year old niece. Police detained Whipple as a suspect in the girl’s disappearance, yet could find no trace of the child for several days.

Criminal evidence located

While searching for Shelley, law enforcement from several agencies located several items belonging to Shelley with DNA evidence on them as well as a knife covered in blood. This evidence combined with Whipple’s DNA and fingerprints was considered enough to charge Whipple with aggravated murder, despite the fact that Shelley’s body had not been located yet.

Aggravated murder

Even without a body to confirm that the young child had indeed been killed by her uncle, investigators determined that the evidence against Whipple supported a charge of aggravated murder, a crime more serious than homicide. According to Utah Code 76-5-202, some of these circumstances that could enhance criminal homicide to aggravated murder include:

  • If the homicide was done to prevent someone from being a witness to a crime;
  • If someone else was in grave danger besides the actor and victim;
  • If the actor was previously charged for a similar crime;
  • If the actor had already been charged for another aggravated crime or a serious crime against a child;
  • If the homicide happened while the actor was incarcerated;
  • If the homicide occurred due to the use of a weapon of mass destruction;
  • If the victim was under 14 years old;
  • If “the homicide was committed incident to one act, scheme, course of conduct, or criminal episode during which the actor committed the crime of abuse or desecration of a dead human body.”

While there are several more factors that could enhance charges to aggravated murder, Whipple, likely had his charges enhanced due to the young age of Shelley and the fact that he had moved her body in an attempt to disclose her location from authorities.

Capital and non capital felony

Aggravated murder could be charged as a noncapital first degree felony if no death penalty is sought. According to section 76-3-207.7, “A person who has pled guilty to or been convicted of first degree felony aggravated murder . . . shall be sentenced [to]:

  • life in prison without parole; or
  • an indeterminate prison term of not less than 25 years and that may be for life.”

Aggravated murder can be a capital felony “if a notice of intent to seek the death penalty has been filed . . . “ as stated in Section 76-5-202. Section 76-3-206 states “A person who has pled guilty to or been convicted of a capital felony shall be sentenced [with:]

  • . . . an indeterminate prison term of not less than 25 years and that may be for life;
  • . . . life in prison without parole.” or
  • death.

Death penalty or location of remains

Once Whipple heard the charges of aggravated murder from his attorney, he agreed to tell authorities where young Shelley’s body was in order to ensure the death penalty would be taken off the table. After several days of searching for Shelley with no luck, authorities agreed to his terms. Whipple told his attorney where to find Shelley and soon after her lifeless body was found less than a block away from her home. While many are angry that Whipple is not facing the death penalty, the trade for information on Shelley’s whereabouts was approved by her family who desperately needed closure. Elizabeth “Lizzy” Shelley’s funeral is scheduled for Monday June 2, 2019, a day before Whipple appears before a judge in court.