St. George teacher going to trial on 15 counts of aggravated child sex abuse

5th District Courthouse, St. George, Utah, date not specified | File photo, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A trial has been scheduled for a St. George school teacher accused molesting a number of former students over the span of his 32-year-career. A trial is also tentatively scheduled for an unrelated case involving a man accused of sexual assault and drug charges.

Curtis William Payne, 60, of Santa Clara, appeared at a pretrial conference held before 5th District Court Judge Jeffrey Wilcox on 15 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, each a first-degree felony. Prosecutor Zachary Weiland and Payne’s defense attorney, Douglas Terry, discussed the time needed for trial. Both ultimately agreed that a two-week trial would be necessary to allow each side an appropriate amount of time to present witnesses and evidence, as well as time for Terry to mount a viable defense for his client.

The trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection in Fifth District Court at 9 a.m. Aug. 5 and will continue through Aug. 16.

Payne was arrested in January 2018 and was initially charged with three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child for crimes the state said he committed while teaching at Sunset Elementary School in St. George in the 1990s, according to the probable cause statement filed by St. George Police in support of the arrest.

Payne was subsequently released from police custody on $75,000 bail pending trial, but less than a week later, he was arrested again and charged with 12 new counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child based upon information obtained through follow-up investigations that identified several additional alleged victims.

Curtis William Payne, of Santa Clara, booking photo posted Feb. 6, 2018 | File photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Upon his initial arrest, the St. George Police Department urged anyone who may have been a victim of Payne to come forward, which is when more allegations emerged that resulted in the additional charges.

By Payne’s second arrest, detectives had interviewed 32 individuals as part of the ongoing sex abuse investigation that began in December 2017.

“The incidents span the length of Mr. Payne’s career, and those interviewed now range in ages from 14 to 30 years old,” St. George Police officer Lona Trombley said in February 2018.

Payne, who was employed by the Washington County School District for more than three decades, was teaching at Sunrise Ridge Intermediate School in St. George at the time of his first arrest.

During a police interview, Payne told authorities that he remembered the former students he is accused of abusing but denied all allegations against him.

Charging documents state the alleged abuse involved inappropriate touching that took place when movies were shown in the classroom, at his desk and during other school functions, while other incidents reportedly took place in the basement of Payne’s Santa Clara residence.

The defendant has remained in custody since his second arrest in February 2018 on $50,000 cash-only bail. Court records indicate the defendant’s wife has since filed for divorce.

Separate case tentatively goes to trial

On Wednesday, a pretrial conference was also scheduled on a 2016 case involving 42-year-old Jib Payne, of St. George.

The case was filed June 30, 2016, when Jib Payne was charged with three first-degree felony counts of forcible sodomy. He was also charged with drug possession with intent to distribute, one count of weapon possession by a category II person and one count of causing/permitting a child or vulnerable adult to be exposed to a controlled substance, each a third-degree felony. He also faces three misdemeanors — one count of each for drug possession, possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia.

Jib Ryan Payne, of St. George, booking photo posted in Washington County, Utah, June 30, 2016 | File photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The case involves a 17-year-old male who was forced into a vehicle June 29, 2016, by the defendant, who pointed a gun at him, according to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest.

The youth was then taken to the suspect’s residence on East Colorado Cove in St. George where he was allegedly sodomized by Jib Payne “three times against his will,” police wrote in the statement. The boy also told police he smoked marijuana with the defendent, who he said provided the substance.

During an interview with police, the defendant admitted the teen spent the night at his home and smoked marijuana with him but denied that any sexual activity occurred, according to court records. He also denied forcing the youth into his vehicle or displaying a weapon.

Through the course of the investigation, officers searched Jib Payne’s residence, allegedly finding what appeared to be marijuana and methamphetamine stored near firearms and ammunition, as well as drug paraphernalia. Officers also located and collected evidence of the alleged sexual assault.

During a search of the defendant’s vehicle, officers allegedly found a black handgun as described during the teen’s interview. The defendant was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility where he remained on $70,000 bail until July 5, 2016, when he was released after posting bond.

After myriad continuances, cancelled trials and delays that went on more than two years, Jib Payne’s case is tentatively scheduled to go to trial starting Aug. 5. It may be rescheduled if there is a conflict with the trial already scheduled in the case of Curtis Payne.

Ed. note: This report was revised to further differentiate the two court cases. On first publish, the two men were incorrectly identified as being related.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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