In recent years, as the public became familiar with the names and crimes of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, awareness of the reality of child trafficking has increased. Specifically, the public awareness that these cases can and do involve high profile political figures and celebrities has increased.
This means that accusations of child trafficking and abuse are less likely to fall upon deaf ears, and more likely to find a receptive audience in those who have become aware of — and disgusted by — these cases. While some people following stories of abuse have spent the last couple years chasing clues from Q Anon, the reality is that the Epstein saga has opened the eyes of millions of people who may not have previously been open to discussing these difficult issues.
This is what makes the Utah County Sheriff’s Office‘s recent announcement of an investigation into reports of child abuse all the more polarizing.
On Tuesday May 31st, the Sheriff’s Office, working with Special Victims Unit Detectives, released a statement detailing how “multiple county and federal agencies are investigating reports of ritualistic child sexual abuse from as far back as 1990”.
The Sheriff’s statement notes that an investigation “into ritualistic child sexual abuse and child sex trafficking” in Utah County began in April 2021. The investigation subsequently discovered previous reports alleging “similar forms of ritualistic sexual abuse and trafficking” that occurred in Utah County, Juab County, and Sanpete County during the time between 1990 and 2010.
The Sheriff’s office stated that “portions of these allegations were confirmed” and are being investigated by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office in cooperation with other local and federal agencies. The statement calls on the victims or individuals with knowledge of the events to contact the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Special Victim’s Unit.
In a statement to The Last American Vagabond, Sergeant Spencer Cannon, Public Information Officer with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, clarified what is meant by “ritualistic sexual abuse”. Sergeant Cannon said this type of case “typically involves a religious component, or people from a religious group”. However, Cannon stated, “it can also be systematic abuse that happens over an extended period.”
Salt Lake City Fox-affiliate FOX 13 News reported that “multiple confidential sources” confirmed the new investigation relates to a story that the FOX 13 Investigates team has been working on for months. “The I-Team has learned some of the subjects of the investigation are high-profile Utahns,” FOX 13 reports. The Sheriff’s office would not confirm or deny the claim.
FOX 13 also states that one of the subjects under investigation is a therapist who was previously charged with a series of sex crimes against young female family members. The Utah County Attorney’s Office dropped charges without prejudice, and the man was not convicted. However, FOX 13 claims to have records which “indicate the man previously confessed to sexually assaulting at least one of the girls on an undercover phone recording”.
The Utah County Attorney Pushes Back
Following the May 31st press release from the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, David Leavitt, the Utah County Attorney, held his own press conference calling for the resignation of Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith. He claimed the Sheriff’s investigation was politically motivated. Although, the USCO statement never mentioned Leavitt, he believes he and his wife are listed in the USCOs investigation.
Leavitt is the younger brother of former 3-time Utah Governor Michael Okerlund Leavitt. The father of the two men is Dixie Leavitt, the founder of the Leavitt Group, one of the largest independent insurance brokers in the nation.
“I learned that my wife and I were part of those allegations, alleging that we were guilty of cannibalizing young children and murdering young children,” Leavitt stated during his press conference.
He claimed the new investigation is related to charges filed against an unnamed man more than 10 years ago. The charges were dismissed because, Leavitt claims, “the evidence was so outlandish and so unbelievable.” Leavitt noted the man was charged in connection to allegations of raping someone he knew from church. Leavitt said the case was dismissed without prejudice in 2014.
Leavitt also shared with the local media a 151-page document labeled as a “victim statement” that describes the alleged crime. The document includes Leavitt’s name, as well as more than a dozen people accused of practicing ritual sexual abuse of children. Investigators with KSLTV5 also obtained a copy through a public records request to the Provo Police Department.
Leavitt described the report as “151 pages of utter baloney” and called the woman who made the allegations “tragically mentally ill.” He called for PIO Sgt. Spencer Cannon and Sheriff Mike Smith to resign. Leavitt is also calling for an independent investigation into the case to see where the case documents originate. Leavitt noted that the primary elections are only weeks away and ballots will be mailed to voters soon.
“And I encourage Mike Smith, if he can, to vindicate himself that this is not done for his political purposes, for the political purposes of those who seek to eliminate me from this office,” he stated. “And if there is such a link, then I call upon him to resign.”
Sources with knowledge of the investigation say the previous case mentioned by Leavitt is more than likely related to David Hamblin, a man who was accused of rape and arrested in 2012. The Utah Daily Herald reported at the time:
“A Provo man was arrested earlier this week on several rape charges stemming from incidents in the 1990s. David Hamblin is being charged with 12 counts of rape of a child, three counts of sodomy of a child, one count of attempted sodomy of a child, all first-degree felonies, and two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a second-degree felony.
The charges are based on events that reportedly happened between 1991 and 1998.”
Charges against Hamblin would indeed be dismissed without prejudice in 2014, meaning they could be refiled in the future if the case comes together.
Survivor Brett Bluth said he met the therapist through a referral from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to “cure” him of homosexuality
UCSO says “ritualistic sexual abuse” usually means “something that has religious overtones to it, or the organized nature of it.” pic.twitter.com/OVGV9PlSTG
— Adam Herbets (@AdamHerbets) June 1, 2022
The Utah County Sheriff’s Office Responds
Within 2 hours of County Attorney Leavitt’s press conference, Sheriff Mike Smith held his own press conference in response. Smith said he will not be resigning and promised that his department will continue to investigate. Smith also said that no less than 20 people have contacted the department since they first announced their investigation.
“I will tell you right now, I think that this is probably the best way we could use public funds is to investigate child sexual abuse,” said Sheriff Smith.
Smith did acknowledge that the case mentioned by Leavitt is connected to the current investigation. When questioned by reporters about the full extent of his investigation he acknowledged that the FBI has been involved in the investigation.
“As we investigated those crimes they led us to the case Mr. Leavitt mentioned… As we looked into it we found further corroborating evidence that these things had happened and needed to be investigated,” Smith said. “We believe, I believe, that Leavitt is using his authority and his pulpit to bully, distract, and mischaracterize the facts of this investigation.”
Smith noted that the focus of the initial press release and the main focus of the investigation was into ritualized sex abuse, not cannibalism.
“Don’t be misled by statements by Leavitt that are sensational. The main focus of this investigation is child sexual abuse,” Smith said. “Several times David Leavitt named himself and mentioned cannibalism and murder. This investigation is about child sexual abuse.”
Smith also admonished Leavitt for calling alleged victims mentally ill. “I take exception to any victim who comes forward and is characterized as tragically mentally ill, how dare you?” he stated.
While it remains to be seen to what degree the Hamblin case is related to the current investigation, and who is implicated in the ongoing investigation, it is a fact that the Utah County Sheriff’s Office is investigating claims of ritualistic sexual abuse of children. Hopefully, the full extent of that abuse and what exactly is meant by ritualistic will be revealed with time.
TLAV will continue to follow the investigation and report on updates as needed. We will also be releasing additional reports looking into the accusations against David Leavitt, and accusations of ritualized child sexual abuse in Utah going back to the 1980’s.