ST. GEORGE — Two suspects arrested for sexual offenses involving minors were the culmination of multiple investigations that resulted in a total of three men being taken into custody Monday. The Washington County Attorney’s Office said the cases were unrelated.
On Monday night, Bryce Alan Taylor was taken into custody by the St. George Police Department following an investigation into reports the suspect allegedly sexually abused a juvenile.
According to the probable cause statement filed in 5th District Court, officers were called in to investigate the suspect after they received a report in July alleging that Taylor had inappropriately touched the youth and had exposed himself to her on more than one occasion. The incidents took place between 2017 and 2018 when the youth was 13-14 years old.
On other occasions the suspect would allegedly inappropriately touch and hug the girl and refused to release her when she attempted to break away.
During a forensic interview with the adolescent, officers were told that Taylor exposed himself to the youth while swimming at his home when other children were present. She also said he would take off his swimming trunks while in the pool and would then get out of the pool naked to retrieve the trunks.
During one incident, the report states, the girl was swimming in the pool alone when Taylor began to “pressure” her to take her suit off, “promising her he would not look,” and when she did so, he removed his swimsuit as well, which is when she hurriedly dressed and “ran home.”
Taylor met with officers at the police station, and during questioning, he began to answer questions, but when the incidents at the pool were brought up, he said he would need an attorney to help him answer those questions.
When officers attempted to affirm that he was requesting an attorney, which would cease all questioning, the report states that he said he “would be willing to answer more questions.” He then denied inappropriately touching the youth.
As the suspect was placed into custody, he stated the girl had lied about “the first story” but would not explain any further when asked by the arresting officer. Taylor was transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility while the case was reviewed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office and the charges were filed Tuesday.
Taylor also faces charges that were filed in Box Elder County in January of first-degree felony aggravated sexual abuse of a child and lewdness involving a child. In that case, the suspect is accused of masturbating while touching an adolescent girl, as well as a separate incident where he acted in a lewd manner against a child under the age of 14. He is scheduled to appear in Box Elder County on Oct. 5.
Bail in Washington County was set at $20,000, and Taylor was released from jail after posting bond.
Also on Monday, 37-year-old Timothy Wallace Peck Jr. was arrested and later charged with five second-degree felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor following an investigation that was set in motion in April when officers were dispatched to a report of sexual exploitation of a minor.
Through the course of the investigation, officers learned that Peck had allegedly solicited pornographic images from a 16-year-old girl using a social media platform.
Court documents state that during a forensic interview at the Children’s Justice Center, the teen told police that Peck requested nude photos of her, and in exchange, the suspect purchased alcohol and cigarettes for the girl. During an examination of the suspect’s cellphone, officers recovered nude and erotic images of the teen.
During a search of Peck’s residence, officers recovered a glass pipe allegedly used for smoking marijuana, along with a bag of what appeared to be marijuana among the suspect’s possessions.
In the probable cause statement filed in support of Peck’s arrest, the officer noted that during an interview with police, the suspect admitted to buying the girl alcohol and tobacco products. He said the girl had no money to pay for the items, which is when they “made arrangements for her to send photographs of herself as payment,” the officer noted in the report.
Peck denied asking the girl to send photos, a statement that was inconsistent with several screenshots captured on both his and the girl’s phones revealing communication that indicated it was the suspect who solicited the images from the teen.
The suspect was arrested and booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on the charges listed, along with misdemeanor drug and drug paraphernalia charges and one count of furnishing alcohol to a minor. He was released after posting bail set at $25,000 at the time of his arrest, and later it was increased to $54,950.
Also on Monday, Melvin Guerra-Paniagu, 31, of St. George, was arrested and booked on four first-degree felonies, including three counts of sodomy of a child and one count of rape of a child. He also faces four second-degree felony counts of sexual abuse of a child.
Washington County Attorney’s Office prosecutor Ryan Shaum confirmed with St. George News that each of the arrests “were completely unrelated to one another.”
As it turned out, he said, there were multiple investigations going on at the same time involving three different individuals, and each ended in an arrest on the same day.
“I can’t remember when, if ever, we’ve had that many arrests with similar charges that had nothing to do with each other,” Shaum said, adding that despite the recent incidents, the number of arrests for sex crimes involving minors has not gone up, other than the variations that naturally occur when there are sting operations, such as the one that took place a few weeks ago that netted a dozen arrests.
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