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Victim of Provo trail rape sues Utah County, jail work-release program

Published September 23, 2011 12:07 am

Courts • Defendants failed to screen and supervise perpetrator of crime, lawsuit says.
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The victim of a June 2010 vicious beating and rape near the Provo River Trail is suing Utah County and its sheriff's office, as well as two companies allegedly affiliated with the county jail's work-release program, saying they failed to screen and supervise the inmate who perpetrated the crime.

Shawn Michael Leonard, 35, was sentenced in July to life in prison without the possibility of parole for attacking the then-19-year-old woman.

Prior to the June attack, Leonard was found eligible for work-release privileges by county jail personnel and was placed by Intermountain Staffing to work at a Lindon manufacturing company called Universal Industrial Sales, Inc., according to the lawsuit filed by the now-20-year-old woman. The Salt Lake Tribune has chosen not to name the plaintiff because she was the victim of a brutal sexual assault.

The lawsuit alleges that if Leonard had been properly screened by the defendants, he would have not been eligible for work-release because of his "extensive criminal history ... ."

On June 8, 2010, Leonard "escaped and/or fled from Universal Industrial Sales Inc.," and the director of the work-release program "failed to timely inform the authorities of his escape," the lawsuit states.

Deputy Utah County Attorney Kent Sundberg on Sept. 22 declined to comment on the lawsuit. Neither Intermountain Staffing nor Universal Industrial Sales Inc., could immediately be reached for comment.

On June 9, 2010, the victim was writing in a notebook near the Provo River when Leonard approached and asked her for money, according to her testimony during Leonard's preliminary hearing in January.

When the victim said she had no money, Leonard demanded she get on the ground. The woman testified that Leonard then tied a string around her neck and choked her until she lost consciousness.

Prosecutors said Leonard at some point bashed the woman's face with a cinder block. She awoke to find her pants and underwear below her knees and her bra pulled up, according to preliminary hearing testimony.

A passerby found the woman huddled near the trail, holding her knees, with her face covered in blood.

Doctors discovered the woman's assailant had smashed out eight of her teeth, fractured her jaw, broken her right cheekbone and nearly blinded her in the right eye.

Police linked Leonard to the crime, in part, because his jail-issued ankle bracelet was found near the crime scene.

Leonard later pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and attempted aggravated murder, all first-degree felonies.

The woman spent two weeks in the hospital — followed by numerous surgeries to reconstruct her face, which included the use of metal plates — and months of recovery at home.

At Leonard's preliminary hearing in January, the woman testified she was awaiting dental implants. Because of her tooth loss and having her jaw wired shut, the 5-foot-11 woman, who had weighed 130 pounds, said she lost 20 pounds.

She said she was taking blood pressure medication to slow her heart, which tends to race as "a trauma response to what happened." She also was using medications to sleep at night, she said.

She said she was unable to drive and lacked the energy to work or attend school. She said she also had double-vision in her right eye, a condition doctors told her could be permanent, she said.

The woman's lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in damages to be determined at trial.





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