ST. GEORGE – A woman charged with filing a false rape report with police last year appeared in Fifth District Court and pleaded not guilty Monday.
Sarah Elizabeth Rutz appeared before Judge James Shumate for a preliminary hearing concerning charges derived from a May 2 rape report. Investigations into the matter later determined the rape report to be bogus, and Rutz was arrested on Sept. 26, 2012, on counts of fraud and a giving a false report to police.
Events surrounding the initial rape report and the eventual discoveries that led to Rutz’s arrest were recounted by Detective Terrance Taylor of the St. George Police. Taylor was in charge of the case and was called on by Senior Deputy Washington County Attorney Brian Filter to offer testimony.
Taylor said the first report of the rape came into the St. George Communications Center, dispatch, at around 4:40 p.m. on May 2, 2012. Rutz called her sister-in-law, who in turn called the police. She said she had been jogging on the bike path that leads into a tunnel under Sunset Boulevard when a man attacked and raped her. The police arrived and Rutz was taken to Intermountain Healthcare Southwest Region’s Dixie Regional Medical Center for a post-rape examination.
Taylor said the examination produced suspect DNA that was sent to the Utah Crime Lab for analysis and cross-referenced with a national database of known sex offenders. No matches were found.
Witness statements given by Rutz were fairly consistent, Taylor said, though pointed out that the scene of the alleged rape and parts of her statements didn’t quite match up. An example he gave was Rutz saying she had been hit with rocks from behind, by her assailant, while giving one account, and then her grabbing rocks and throwing them back at her attacker in another account. The presence of loose gravel was not present at the crime scene, Taylor said.
“The pathway itself was so clear,” he said.
Despite possible discrepancies in her statements, police continued to treat the case as a rape investigation through July, when a police sketch of the suspect was released. Rutz had also described her attacker as a man dressed in entirely in black.
Rutz was asked by police if she was involved in an extramarital affair, which she denied. However, Taylor said, as the investigation proceeded, Rutz’s husband found deleted emails from April 2012 that involved a Craig’s List ad to which his wife had responded.
Rutz’s husband supplied the email to police, who were able to track the email used in the exchange to a home in St. George. This led them to a married man who acknowledged the email was his and that the relationship he had with Rutz had been a consensual sexual affair. The affair had involved an exchange of phone calls, texts, photos, and so on, which culminated in a physical encounter on May 2. The man’s DNA also matched the sample taken from Rutz’s examination.
Taylor said he took the new evidence to Rutz who denied the affair at first, then admitted to it, calling it a “one time thing.”
Taylor said she told him she had intercourse with the man the same day she reported the rape, albeit at an earlier time. Rutz said that while she was out jogging on the city bike path she became overwhelmed with what had happened and was afraid of how her husband and others she knew would react if news of the affair got out, Taylor said; and that she said she then saw a man dressed in black pass by, and that was when she came up with the rape story.
Rutz was arrested on Sept. 26, 2012, and was charged with three class B misdemeanors involving making false reports to police. She was also charged with filing a fraudulent crime victim reparations claim, which counts as a second degree felony. These charges are unchanged as of Jan. 7, 2013.
The second degree felony derives from Rutz’s accepting funds from the state’s crime victim compensation/reparation fund, based on a false claim.
Money from the fund can be granted to a victim in order to cover expenses caused by criminal activity. The reparation can cover property damage, medical or counseling expenses, relocation costs if a victim can no longer reside in his/her current location safely, burial and funeral costs, etc.
The class B misdemeanor charges carry possible sentences of up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines each. The second-degree felony carries a one–15 year sentence and up to $10,000 in fines.
Judge Shumate ruled there is enough probable cause to move past a preliminary hearing and proceed to a two-day trial. The date of the trial has yet to be set.
Note: Persons charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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