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.

Sexual Abuse by a LDS Church Counselor

The LDS church is exceptionally cautious by requiring any person in a leadership role such as a teacher, counselor, or scout leader to be “two deep” to prevent any allegations of inappropriate conduct such as sexual abuse. Unfortunately, leaders acting on their own outside of, or after church activities aren’t always monitored as closely. Just last month, an LDS Church counselor was sentenced to serve time in prison for having a sexual relationship with a teenage boy he’d met previously at a church camp.

EFY counselor

benmckune

benmckune

29 year old Keldon S. Cook from Farmington Utah was sentenced on November 30th 2015 for multiple charges stemming from a sexual relationship he had with a teenager. Cook met the 14 year old youth while he was one of many EFY counselors for an event sponsored by the LDS church. After their initial introductions at the EFY event, Cook communicated with the teen through texting and IMing for the duration of two years. Following the electronic communications, which the teen stated to be quite inappropriate, the adult church counselor arranged a meeting with the boy and sexual conduct ensued. Cook was originally charged with multiple charges such as forcible sodomy and forcible sexual abuse but took a plea deal, reducing the charges to four 3rd degree felonies instead, three of which were unlawful sexual conduct with a 16 or 17 year old.

Age makes a difference

When the sexual abuse began between Cook and the teen, the youth was 16 years old. Although the sexual acts that took place were not legal, the older age of the youth saved Cook many years behind bars. When it comes to charges related to children, the younger the age of the victim, the harsher the penalties will be for the defendant. Charges are known to be drastically higher when the victim for sexual abuse is under the age of 14. This may be due the fact that older teenagers are known as being somewhat capable of making their own decisions where younger teens or prepubescent children are not. In the case of Keldon S. Cook, if the sexual abuse had started earlier when the teen was younger, the charges against Cook could’ve landed him in prison for life.

Position of trust

Photo by: Randen Pederson

Photo by: Randen Pederson

Not only can a victim’s younger age increase charges for a defendant, but so can age along with the defendant’s role in the victim’s life. When sexual abuse occurs with a child under the age of 14 and the adult is in a position of trust such as a church counselor, it is then considered aggravated sexual abuse. According to Utah Code 76-5-401.1, “Position of trust means:

• An adoptive parent;
• An athletic manager who is an adult;
• An aunt
• A babysitter
• A coach
• A cohabitant of a parent if the cohabitant is an adult;
• A counselor;
• A doctor or physician;
• An employer;
• A foster parent;
• A grandparent;
• A legal guardian;
• A natural parent
• A recreational leader who is an adult;
• A religious leader;
• A sibling or a stepsibling who is an adult;
• A scout leader who is an adult;
• A stepparent;
• A teacher of any other person employed by or volunteering at a public or private elementary school or secondary school, and who is 18 years of age or older;
• An uncle;
• A youth leader who is an adult; or
• Any person in a position of authority, […] which enables the person to exercise undue influence over the child.”

Aggravated sexual abuse

Unlike sexual abuse which is a 2nd degree felony, aggravated sexual abuse of a child such as sexual abuse by a person of trust is a 1st degree felony, punishable by 15 years to life in prison. Those in positions where they work with children need to be cautious about never being alone with a child and following any rules and guidelines in place to protect both child and adult. Any adult who is facing true or even fraudulent charges of any sexual abuse should speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately.