ST. GEORGE — A St. George school teacher, who was arrested last week on three first-degree felony charges for allegedly molesting a former elementary student, is now facing 12 additional felony charges as more people have come forward with sex abuse accusations.
Curtis William Payne, 59, of Santa Clara, who was out of jail on $75,000 bail pending trial following his Jan. 30 arrest, was arrested again Tuesday and charged with 12 new counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.
“The new charges are based upon information obtained through follow-up investigations which have identified several additional victims,” St. George Police officer Lona Trombley said in a statement. “The incidents span the length of Mr. Payne’s career and those interviewed now range in ages from 14 to 30 years old.”
As of Tuesday, police said detectives had interviewed 32 individuals as part of the ongoing sex abuse investigation involving Payne, who has been employed by the Washington County School District for 32 years.
“Many of the interviews resulted in disclosures that described similar patterns of conduct which involved touching and other behavior by Mr. Payne,” police said Tuesday, adding:
Many of the incidents had not progressed to the point where criminal violations occurred. Other disclosures did provide sufficient evidence that crimes were committed and charges have been filed as a result.
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 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.
The woman told police that Payne would allow her to sit on his lap behind his desk and that he groped her vagina on three or four separate occasions, the report states. She also disclosed details about how Payne would put movies on for her class, turn out the lights and sit by her at which point he would place his hand under her clothing to grope her chest and rub her vagina.
The woman further told police about a pool party where Payne grabbed her while she was in the pool and rubbed her genitals over and under her swimsuit, according to the statement.
Payne, who was teaching at Sunrise Ridge Intermediate School in St. George, was arrested Jan. 30 on three first-degree felony counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.
Upon his initial arrest, the St. George Police Department urged anyone who may have been a victim of Payne to come forward. New sex abuse allegations have since emerged.
On Feb. 1, a woman, who described herself as a longtime friend of Payne and his family, contacted St. George Police to report being sexually abused by Payne.
During her interview at the police department, she disclosed details of the sexual abuse, which she said occurred while she was visiting Payne’s Santa Clara residence over the course of three summers when she was approximately 10-12 years old, charging documents state.
While watching movies in the basement of Payne’s home, the woman said Payne would sit next to her on a couch and place a blanket over them, according to court documents. The woman told police Payne would put his hands under her clothes to touch her private areas, noting that these incidents of abuse had occurred more than 20 separate times.
Another woman contacted St. George police Feb. 1 to report being sexually abused by Payne when she was a student in his fourth-grade class at Sunset Elementary School during the 2000-01 school year, according to a probable cause statement filed in the case.
The woman told police she had danced with Payne at a school function and that “while dancing with him, she stated he would move his hand down and grab her buttocks area” approximately 10 times, the report states.
On Feb. 2, a mother contacted police to report that her 14-year-old daughter had confided that she had also been sexually abused by Payne during her fourth- and fifth-grade years at Sunset Elementary School, according to court documents.
The girl was interviewed at the St. George Children’s Justice Center Feb. 6 where she disclosed that when she had gone to Payne’s desk to ask him for assistance during her fourth-grade year, Payne gave her a hug and then squeezed her buttocks, the report states.
She detailed another incident outside her St. George residence when Payne was visiting one of her neighbors and let her know he would be next door if she wanted to come over, charges state. While in front of the houses, Payne allegedly gave her a hug and grabbed her buttocks area.
During her fifth-grade year, the girl said she stayed after class to receive assistance with an assignment, the arresting officer wrote, noting:
Curtis (Payne) had the female sit on his lap where he then pulled her close to him. Curtis put his arm around the juvenile and placed his hand on her breast. She described his hand as massaging her breast area.
On Feb. 5, another woman contacted police to report being sexually abused by Payne approximately eight to 10 times when she was a student in his fourth-grade class at Sunset Elementary School during the 1999-2000 school year, charges state.
During her interview, the woman told police the abuse would occur during movie time when Payne would turn the lights off in the classroom and then sit next to her on the classroom countertop, the officer wrote. The woman said Payne would then begin rubbing her shoulder and back area before reaching his hand down and touching her breasts over her clothing.
Payne was arrested on the new charges Tuesday evening and booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility. Upon his arrest, Payne invoked his right to remain silent by refusing to answer questions, police said.
Judge Jeffrey Wilcox, of the 5th District Court, ordered $200,000 cash-only bail for Payne’s release pending trial. He is scheduled to appear before Wilcox Thursday afternoon for his initial appearance on the new charges.
As the St. George Police Department continues its investigation, police are asking anyone with additional information about the sexual abuse 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.
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