St. George teacher enters plea deal in case of aggravated child sex abuse

ST. GEORGE — A former St. George school teacher pleaded no contest Monday to molesting a number of former students over the span of his 32-year career.

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

Curtis William Payne, 60, of Santa Clara, appeared before 5th District Judge Jeffrey Wilcox during a resolution hearing after the cancellation of a two-week jury trial. Payne was previously charged in five separate cases for a total of 15 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, each a first-degree felony.

Payne pleaded no contest to four of six counts in one of the cases. By doing so, the former school teacher entered into a plea deal that would dismiss the remaining two counts and all other pending cases.

Each count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child carries a minimum sentence of 15 years to life in prison. Prosecutor Zachary Weiland asked that each count be served consecutively, totally a minimum sentence of 60 years to life.

With a no-contest plea, Payne is not admitting to the alleged crimes but is stating he is comfortable with the factual basis presented to him by the state. A no-contest plea is, however, treated as a guilty plea.

“It is curious the agreement that your client has reached in this matter,” Wilcox said Monday to Payne’s defense attorney, Douglas Terry.

Curtis William Payne is escorted out of the courtroom following the conclusion of his resolution hearing in St. George, Utah, on Aug. 5, 2019 | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

Payne is scheduled to appear in 5th District Court for sentencing on Sept. 17 at 11 a.m. If any victims wish to testify, they will be given the opportunity to do so at sentencing. A pre-sentence investigation will also be conducted, and a report will be drafted before the sentencing date.

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

Less than a week after his release pending trial, Payne was arrested again and faced more allegations as he was charged with 12 new counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. Detectives had interviewed 32 individuals and obtained information through follow-up investigations that identified several additional alleged victims as part of the ongoing sex abuse investigation that began in December 2017.

This report is based on statements from police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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

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