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The convicted getaway driver in a deadly 1996 Utah motel robbery is back behind bars, this time on multiple counts of human trafficking and sexual exploitation involving two women.
In Farmington's 2nd District Court, Todd Jeremy Rettenberger, 37, was charged Thursday with two counts each of second-degree felony human trafficking for forced sexual exploitation and aggravated exploitation of prostitution; another second-degree felony count of participating in a pattern of unlawful activity; and third-degree felony counts of obstructing justice and tampering with a witness.
According to a probable cause statement, both women had been taken from Utah to Oregon and back and forced into prostitution by Rettenberger, whom they told investigators was their "pimp." One woman admitted to having become involved in prostitution to feed her heroin addiction, but claimed Rettenberger threatened and assaulted her on numerous occasions to keep her from leaving.
A second woman also told investigators that she was afraid of Rettenberger, who "had a scary background and . . . did not like to be told 'no.' " She said Rettenberger had specifically referred to the motel slaying, and that the woman "understood the defendant to mean that if she crossed him, she would be killed like the [motel] clerk," prosecutors claim.
The second woman said when she tried to quit prostitution, Rettenberger would "take it out" on her with "violent sex acts" that included choking.
When the women were arrested, prosecutors say, he ordered them to clear their cellphones and to not mention his name.
In 1996, Rettenberger, then 18, had acted as lookout and getaway driver in the murder of Woods Cross Motel 6 clerk Matthew John Whicker, 30, during a botched robbery.
In 2002, Rettenberger pleaded guilty to manslaughter and promised to testify against his two alleged accomplices. Rettenberger, who had spent five years in the Davis County Jail at that point, was sentenced to probation.
However, in 2011, he was charged with exploiting prostitutes, as well as drug possession in a separate case, and in July 2012 was sentenced to prison for up to five years on both cases.
Rettenberger was paroled on Nov. 10, 2015. But he allegedly renewed his criminal activity a short time later.
Prosecutors allege Rettenberger's illegal prostitution operation began in early January of this year and extended through mid-February.
Corrections department spokesperson Brooke Adams said Friday that the Board of Pardons and Parole issued a warrant for Rettenberger on Feb. 9 for absconding.
He was arrested on Feb. 26, in Idaho and booked into the Ada County Jail. On March 4, his parole was revoked and he was returned to the Utah State Prison, Adams said.
Rettenberger's accomplices in the Motel 6 robbery were triggerman David Valken-Leduc and Elliot Rashad Harper.
In 2004, a jury found Valken-Leduc guilty of first-degree felony murder and he was sentenced to prison for up to life.
But in 2009, Valken-Leduc's conviction was vacated following an appeal asserting that his trial attorney put on an ineffective defense.
Valken-Leduc, now 37, then entered an Alford plea maintaining his innocence while conceding prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him to a lesser charge of second-degree felony manslaughter and was sentenced to three years probation.
Harper, who went into the motel with Valken-Leduc, pleaded guilty in 2005 to third-degree felony homicide by assault and was sentenced to prison for up to five years. Harper, now 37, was discharged from prison in February 2008.