Police arrest St. George teacher on aggravated child sex abuse charges

St. George News stock image | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A St. George school teacher is facing three first-degree felony charges Wednesday for allegedly molesting a former elementary student of his on multiple occasions.

Curtis William Payne, of Santa Clara, Utah, booking photo posted Jan. 30, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Curtis William Payne, 59, of Santa Clara, was arrested Tuesday and charged with three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child while Payne was teaching at Sunset Elementary School in St. George in the ’90s, according to a probable cause statement filed by St. George Police in support of the arrest.

Detectives began investigating Payne in December 2017 when a woman came forward with allegations of Payne’s inappropriate conduct with her while she was in his fourth-grade class, the arresting officer wrote in the sworn statement.

The woman told police that Payne would allow her to sit on his lap behind his desk and that he groped her vagina with one of his hands on three or four separate occasions, the report states. She said the touching initially happened over her clothing, but that Payne eventually began touching her vagina underneath her clothing.

The woman disclosed additional details about how Payne would put movies on for her class, turn out the lights and have some children sit on the counter and others sit on the floor, the officer wrote, adding:

She said Curtis (Payne) would sit next to her, whether on the counter or the floor, and place his hand up her shirt. She described Curtis as groping her chest area, as well as placing his hands down her clothing and rubbing her vagina. She stated this happened multiple times during classroom movies.

The woman further told police about a pool party at someone’s house, stating that Payne grabbed her while she was in the pool and rubbed her genitals over and under her swimsuit, according to the statement.

Payne, who has been employed by the Washington County School District for 32 years, was teaching at Sunrise Ridge Intermediate School in St. George at the time of his arrest Tuesday, according to the Washington County School District.

Payne was interviewed at the St. George Police Department Tuesday where he confirmed he remembered the female as one of his former students in the late nineties, but denied the allegations, the report states.

Payne was arrested and transported to the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.

The Washington County Attorney’s Office filed an information in 5th District Court Wednesday accusing Payne of three first-degree felony counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

Payne was subsequently released from police custody on bail pending trial. He is scheduled to appear before 5th District Judge G. Michael Westfall Thursday for his initial appearance.

St. George Police said the investigation is ongoing and are asking anyone with additional information about the sexual misconduct allegations to call 435-627-4338.

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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29 Comments

  • comments January 31, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    So will the sole evidence in the case be her word against his from events 20 years ago? Does he have a history of complaints against him? 20 years ago is a long time, and there’s actually good reasons to have a statute of limitation– mainly with gathering reliable evidence and finding witnesses, and how well witnesses might even remember 20+ year old events. I hope they have a more substantial case than one woman’s accusation from a few 20+ year old childhood memories. I’d not be surprised tho, if they get a conviction on a simple 1 person testimony, just because of the rampant pedophile hysteria of modern society. Guilty until proven innocent, with a person’s life upended bc of an accusation.

    He could well be guilty also, and It’d certainly be interesting to see how they put together a case like this 20+ years after the fact.

    I hope the complaint wasn’t spurred by some kind of voodoo recovered memory therapy or some such thing…

    • DRT January 31, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      I think you covered it very thoroughly.

    • Icomments2 January 31, 2018 at 8:24 pm

      I totally agree with you!!! I know this man from my kids being involved with school functions since 2004 and I think he is kinda off. But that being said I don’t believe this accusation one bit!!! No complaints by any others only one from the 90’s come on people let’s think about it here for a min here… Like I said I’ve know of him since 2004 and yes still think he is off but not a perv!!!

    • baroo January 31, 2018 at 8:34 pm

      I went to Sunset in the late 90s and had friends in his class. I was literally telling someone the other day about the grope-y teacher I had in elementary school. Never heard about it getting this far, but this is absolutely not out of the blue. We just thought he was weird and gross at the time. I won’t be surprised at all if a lot of girls remember this guy being a creep at the very least.

      • comments January 31, 2018 at 8:45 pm

        “I went to Sunset in the late 90s and had friends in his class. I was literally telling someone the other day about the grope-y teacher I had in elementary school.”

        you contradicted yourself there. you realize that?

        • baroo January 31, 2018 at 8:56 pm

          I’m not sure what you mean. In 4th grade we’d do activities with the teachers of other classes all the time. One teacher did a leather working class, another one did US geography, sometimes we’d watch movies in a different classroom or play dodgeball. It was called rotation I think.

          • comments January 31, 2018 at 9:40 pm

            oh ok, my mistake…

            we never did stuff like that when i was in school

  • comments January 31, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    I’ll give these LDS mormon prosecutors the benefit of the doubt and assume they’ve got more than a single 20+ yr old testimony…

    • tastysprinkles January 31, 2018 at 8:04 pm

      Being LDS/Mormon doesn’t give them more credibility than any other prosecutor. Corruption and “career-building” (i.e. trying to prosecute weak but scandalous cases that would boost a politically-minded DA’s public profile and career) is just as rampant among the mormon “good ol’ boy” network as it is anywhere else. Usually it’s even more rampant in patriarchal religious environments where the men are all patting themselves on the back all the time and telling each other how spiritual and morally correct they are. That kind of feedback loop breeds corrupt behavior where the perpetrator convinces themselves they’ve done nothing wrong or in fact have only acted with the public interest in mind despite having ripped millions of dollars out of the hands of unsuspecting victims (think Jeremy Johnson) or in most cases less serious but still ethically repugnant crimes that they don’t see the issue with.

      • comments January 31, 2018 at 8:56 pm

        I wasn’t implying at all that LDS is a good thing here.

        I know nothing about this guy, and I won’t defend him. What I have a problem with is an article like this that lists memories of 20+ year old events in statements as the only evidence for prosecution, and I’d like to know why? And then goes on in fairly graphic detail alleging the guy rubbed little girl’s vaginas. He may well have gone around rubbing little girl’s vaginas in the 90s, but if it turns out he didn’t those are some fairly graphic descriptions of molestation. The man could be a pervert and a molester, but I wanna hear about the real evidence. Maybe some of his past colleagues remember him sitting the little girls on his lap all the time? I’m very disappointed w/ this reporting.

      • Bobs_Vegana February 3, 2018 at 5:38 pm

        lol Jeremy Johnson is absolutely guilty. He is a charlatan and a fraudster. He took advantage of the underprivileged.

  • comments January 31, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    and if a criminal conviction happens the alleged victim is almost certain to receive a multi-million dollar settlement against the district…. hmm

  • comments January 31, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    Oh, and it isn’t just pedophile hysteria. There’s this whole #MeToo craze/hysteria going on. Seems everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. Lots of $$$$$$$$$$$ up for grabs. I need to think back into my history who I can accuse of molestation… oh that’s right, I’m a man, and men can’t be victims, only predators…..

  • Rob83 January 31, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    Wow, I went to Sunset when he taught there and actually know a few kids who were in his class. I only heard great things about Mr. Payne. Really hope the truth prevails in this case and actually really hope he didn’t do this. Poor girl if it really did happen and I’m completely shocked.

  • comments January 31, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    “Payne would allow her to sit on his lap behind his desk and that he groped her vagina”

    “Payne eventually began touching her vagina underneath her clothing”

    “She described Curtis as groping her chest area, as well as placing his hands down her clothing and rubbing her vagina.”

    Kim was able to use the word vagina in this article enough times that this guy’s life is pretty much ruined. Kim why don’t you find out what other evidence they have in this case besides the single alleged victim’s statements?

    • tastysprinkles January 31, 2018 at 8:25 pm

      I’m more curious how he was apparently able to do this in a crowded classroom without any other child noticing. Elementary school children in classrooms are notoriously demanding of a teachers attention and the teacher is almost always within the field of vision of multiple children and constantly being pestered, especially in situations where they are allowed to freely move about the classroom (which would be required in a situation where a girl was able to go up and sit on his lap).

      I bet you they don’t find any other evidence than this girls statements (she would be in her late twenties like me and I know people in my age group have almost no detailed memory of their elementary school years).

      The “media contagion” pedophile hysteria started in the 80’s and perpetuated into the 90s, so even if we hypothetically consider that he might be a pedophile I seriously doubt that Mr. Payne had the lack of common sense to allow any sexually-developing 9-10 year old girl to sit on his lap. No other male teacher did. Maybe a 5-7 year old and only in limited situations, but definitely not anyone in 4th or 5th grade where sexual curiosity and confused feelings are already developing in girls (who start puberty way earlier than boys). Male teachers are trained to be very careful about physical contact with girls at these ages precisely for that reason.

      Mrs. Beck, who taught 3rd grade at the same school, was one of very few teachers allowed to get away with intimate physical contact with her students, and even then she always checked with parents (and the kids themselves) to make sure it was ok to hug their children or kiss them on the cheek.

      The “media contagion” effect is well known with regards to school shooters. Would not be shocked to find that this accuser is emotionally or mentally troubled since mentally ill women may be subject to “media contagion” regarding sexual assault cases of celebrities. For example Munchausen’s Syndrome is a mental illness where people draw sympathetic attention to themselves by faking illness or criminal victimization. (Munchausen’s by Proxy is where they use a third-party such as a dependent child or disabled adult to receive the sympathetic attention by making the child/dependent-adult perpetually ill through poisoning and other abusive behavior).

      Child sexual abusers in elementary schools nearly always operate serially (multiple victims over several years). Unless another victim comes forward with a similar story, I seriously doubt this girls claims are accurate. If I was a betting man I’d put my money on this case either eventually being thrown out due to a lack of actionable evidence or the girl giving conflicting testimony as she is confronted by intense cross-examination and/or exculpatory evidence/testimony from the defense team and any potential witnesses they call up.

      • Icomments2 February 1, 2018 at 2:54 am

        That is so very well put and true… I don’t buy into her accusation at all myself… And she has just ruin this mans life… Like I said on prior comment I’ve always thought the man was a little off but not a perv… I hope she really thinks long and hard about what she is doing to him and his family…

  • jaybird January 31, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    He could easily sue this woman for defamation of character if the charges are false.

  • 12345 February 1, 2018 at 2:39 am

    the case is still ongoing lol ! ok you can all put your lawyer hats away

  • Icomments2 February 1, 2018 at 2:56 am

    A lot of children have been affected by him being arrested at the school today too!!! Not cool they could have waited for a better time and place!!!

  • MeandME February 1, 2018 at 8:20 am

    I find it hard to believe that a 59 year old man, who is being accused of pedophilia over 20 years ago, has had no allegations or accusations since. I would dare say that most pedophiles usually have multiple victims, especially with a gap in years this long. If he is guilty, and I’m not saying if he is PROVEN guilty, but if he really is guilty, this man did a very good job at keeping his pedophilia hidden. I am sad to say, and even if he is innocent, the “woman” has the upper hand; a young woman against an older man? Good luck Payne. Also, why can’t we know the accuser whose “vagina was groped” but we can know the supposed groper? I think that is a joke. I dare say we have the right to know the accuser and not just the accused.

  • comments February 2, 2018 at 12:12 am

    I been reading several comments from other sites, and i believe this guy’s behavior fits the profile of a child molester. I’d not be surprised at this point if several other women, whose vaginas he may have fondled when they were girls, come forward with their stories. I’d also not be surprised if there are a dozen or more victims. I was never fondled as a child so I don’t know what kind of trauma this causes, but if it’s caused these women a great deal of suffering over the years then the man, if guilty, should do the time.

    • LocalTimer February 3, 2018 at 4:20 am

      Several comments, ooh more speculation. Apparently, if someone is a little quirky I guess they should be considered a child molester per several statements (most, likely didn’t know him and it’s just hearsay nonsense). It’s as if there is no good information on this but posts to confirm acceptance in a group or to push an agenda. Maybe this is so-far a nothing case by a DA that is trying to make a name for itself abusing the local police department and attempting to use “media contagion” to get others to “come out” #MeToo along. Human memories are the most fallible things, especially over 20 years. There’s no verdict yet so quit the defamation, it’s also possible this is some girl with munchhausen syndrome, who knows. So many options, let’s catch a few more angles okay?

      • comments February 3, 2018 at 12:16 pm

        (not sure anyone is still reading this I might be talking to myself, how pathetic is that? hahahahah)

        Well, I will say this, the way the cops chose to go about this investigation is somewhat conniving and underhanded. By that I mean they’re using formal charges to further their investigation. In order to make a release asking more “potential victims” to come forward the police had to make the charges, and I’m not convinced they have enough evidence for a ‘fair prosecution’ just from some 15-20 year old memories from statements by 1 or 2 women. And shame on Kimberly Scott and stgnews for releasing an article like this with so little substance and such graphic descriptions of molestation– rubbing vaginas? like really? It’s a bit much. I will stick to what I said about his conduct matching the profile of a molester– this is my take from reading a great many comments from people that knew him in the (2) facebook articles, and under the assumption they’re not lying — not a great source of “evidence”, I know.

        So did this guy get a little to cuddly and touchy feely to some of his little girl students and cross that line into molestation? I sure hope so, because otherwise a man’s life is…. well, it would be bad…..

        Like I said I’m gonna give these good mormon prosecutors the benefit of the doubt and assume they’ve got a lot more evidence than what kim presented in this article. BUT I DO FEEL LIKE THE PUBLIC HAS A RIGHT TO KNOW WHAT OTHER EVIDENCE, because they have ruined a man’s life either way. And I’ve heard of plenty of men being convicted from false testimonies by hysterical or mentally ill women.

        THAT’S ALL I HAVE. AND I KNOW I’M PROB JUST TALKING TO MYSELF HERE.

        • comments February 3, 2018 at 1:33 pm

          You really just hope the law enforcers, prosecutors, and media has more of a “conscience” than to go destroying a man over possibly false allegations. You really have to hope they have a lot more to a case like this than very subjective 17-20 year old memories. That’s why I feel like the media and the police has failed us here (the spectrum too), bc with such a public employee as a school teacher and such very serious charges WE DO HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW MORE DETAILS OF WHY THE LAWMEN FEEL THESE ALLEGATIONS ARE LEGITIMATE. It’s the media’s job to keep the lawmen from stepping on the rights of citizens, and that means protecting from false charges. A EXTREMELY LIMITED RELEASE OF INFORMATION, TO THE POINT OF BEING UNJUST, seems to be the biggest failure here.

  • comments February 3, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    then again maybe im being too critical of the news outlet. they are just publishing what the coppers release to them, regardless of how graphic….

    • comments February 4, 2018 at 1:04 am

      Yeah, I guess you can’t fault Kimberly Scott or the site for the graphic stuff. It’s not the news site’s job to dumb down and censor statements released by the police. I don’t know what kind of shock value the cops were going for. They could have used more vague of terms instead of going on and on and on about all these specific details of each and every time the guy allegedly fondled the girl’s genitals. Maybe they did this hoping to trigger some of his possible other women victims to come forward– the ones that had the exact same thing happen?

      Maybe it’s for the same reason these same cops are telling us about all this baby torturing stuff? Maybe it’s pure shock value they’re aiming for. They could’ve just told us they found illegal stuff, but no, these cops are telling us about all this baby torture porn or w/e the… it is, and now I’m traumatized by it just from having to know this stuff exists. I could’ve gone my whole life, but the cops had to watch this filth and now all of us have to know about it

      ridiculous

  • Bobs_Vegana February 3, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    He was my “homeroom teacher” or whatever. From my imperfect memory of him, this is surprising. But I have friends who find it less surprising.

    While it certainly is possible he might be capable of doing something like it, I find it VERY unlikely he did this in class during a “movie.” As a fourth grader, I definitely would have known that that was wrong, and I am sure most other 4th graders would know. I find it hard to believe that this guy was able to do it undetected surrounded by a bunch of kids Especially at that age, if someone would have seen him doing that, I guarantee they would have told their parents, even if this girl was too scared to do so.

    Again, while it seems odd to me, it certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibility. I just hope we wait till we have facts to condemn him.

    • comments February 4, 2018 at 12:35 am

      The man is already condemned. He’s been found guilty by the police and therefore the media. Just read the article. Even if the charges are dropped the damage has been done. The best you can hope for is that he’s actually guilty. He’ll forever be known as ‘the movie time vagina fondler’.

      What in the world is the story with your user name, buddy?

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