Man in jail for misdemeanors may face aggravated burglary, assault charges

Santa Clara-Ivins Police vehicle, location unspecified, July 11, 2018 | File photo courtesy of the Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A local man in jail may now face aggravated burglary and assault charges that were submitted to the Washington County Attorney’s Office for review.

Joseph Smith Taafuli, 38, was involved in a series of incidents that began Monday when Santa Clara/Ivins Police officers responded to a residence where a reported trespass was in progress. The tenants told responding officers they arrived home to find the suspect, later identified as Taafuli, in the kitchen who appeared to be dismantling light fixtures.

As soon as the suspect spotted the tenants he ran into the bathroom, Santa Clara/Ivins Police Sgt. Jaron Studley said.

The tenants were not sure if the man was a repair technician so they called the landlord who had no idea who the man was, at which point the tenants called police for help.

Joseph Smith Taafuli, 38, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Aug. 9, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The suspect was still in the bathroom when officers arrived and was detained after officers ordered him to come out. At that point a search was conducted to clear the room which is when a syringe was found in the trash can next to the toilet. Officers also found a fresh track mark on Taafuli’s arm.

The suspect was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility where he was book on the offenses and was released from jail Aug. 8.

The following day a Santa Clara/Ivins Police detective stopped a vehicle in which Taafuli was a passenger on Friday evening shortly after 7 p.m.

During a subsequent search of the vehicle police found a piece of tinfoil near the passenger’s seat where the suspect was sitting, and when the substance was field tested it came back positive for methamphetamine.

Taafuli was arrested and transported to jail where he faces two misdemeanors: Possession of a controlled substance and another count of possession of paraphernalia and remained in jail on $1,950 bail.

Studley said that when the incident reported on Aug. 5 took place, one of the tenants of the residence was in custody at the time, which also may not have been a coincidence.

He went on to say there are individuals who watch the booking site to see who’s in jail, and then break into that person’s residence knowing they won’t be at the house.

While it may or may not apply to this incident specifically, it has happened before.

Meanwhile, a hold was placed on Taafuli Sunday morning by the St. George Police Department when possible charges were submitted to the Washington County Attorney’s Office for review, including one count of first-degree aggravated burglary. He also faces two third-degree felonies, including aggravated assault and criminal mischief. The suspect remains in custody at the time of this report.

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

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