Man charged with aggravated assault for allegedly pulling knife on resident in St. George

In this 2020 stock image of St. George Police Patrol Vehicle taken in St. George, Utah, Jan. 29, 2020 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A man accused of pulling a knife on a resident after he allegedly trespassed on private property was arrested and formally charged with aggravated assault – one of several recent arrests involving the suspect.

On the afternoon of May 28, officers responded to a residence on 975 North near North Dixie Downs Road on a call involving a suspected assault by a man who was reportedly trespassing on the property, according to charging documents submitted to the Washington County Attorney’s Office for review.

The 911-caller reported that a man pulled a knife on the resident who used a stick in an attempt to ward off the attack, the report states.

Officers arrived to discover the man suspected of entering the property was identified as 22-year-old Mason Kory Bithell, who was also reportedly a suspect in an interaction that took place at a grocery store on Sunset Boulevard the previous day involving a misdemeanor drug charge.

During Friday’s incident, the resident said the scuffle began when he walked out of the garage and noticed the door to a shed near the garage was open. When he went to investigate further, he found the suspect rummaging through the outbuilding.

The resident ordered Bithell to leave, telling him he was trespassing on the property, but instead of leaving, the reporting party told authorities the suspect told him he was looking for his backpack and refused to leave the shed. As the man nudged the suspect toward the wall to get him to leave, the report states that Bithell pulled out a knife and came toward him, holding the knife with the blade facing the man as he threatened to injure the resident.

The resident grabbed a fireplace poker from the wood stove located in the backyard, one that was missing the pointed end, the report states, and he used it to strike the suspect’s hand to dislodge the knife, cutting Bithell’s hand open in the process.

The suspect then reportedly jumped over a retaining wall and fled from the residence on foot.

Officers found a blood trail from where the altercation allegedly took place that continued over the wall, which was consistent with the reporting party’s statement to police.

Officers scoured the area and located the suspect at the McDonald’s restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, where a witness told police the suspect was in the shed searching for his backpack.

The suspect reportedly admitted to entering the property without permission, but said he was confronted by the resident who was yelling at him with a fire poker in his hand. Bithell also reportedly said he grabbed a knife to defend himself and was struck in the hand while trying to leave.

Police say Bithell “kept changing his story” and then became upset when officers attempted to clarify certain details of the incident, allegedly telling officers he “was attacked for no reason.”

According to the report, the reporting party’s account remained consistent in his statement to police, the officer wrote, adding that Bithell did not call 911 or attempt to get any emergency medical treatment for the laceration to his hand after fleeing the residence – leading the officer to conclude it was Bithell who was the primary aggressor during the incident.

The suspect was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility facing third-degree felony aggravated assault, trespassing and disorderly conduct, each a misdemeanor, offenses he was formally charged with on Monday.

April arrest 

The suspect was arrested in April following a call to emergency dispatch from a restaurant reporting that a man was found unconscious in the restroom. Officers arrived to find emergency medical personnel attending to the man in the restroom. One of the EMTs handed officers a ball of tinfoil they found next to the man, and when the officer pulled the tinfoil open they found 10 pills that were later identified as fentanyl.

According to the officer’s notation in the report, “It is uncommon for a person to have more than 8 pills of fentanyl,” adding that each pill is considered to be a single gram, so finding more than 10 grams on the suspect is considered distribution.

Bithell was medically cleared and then transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility on third-degree felony count of knowingly produce/dispense/manufacture a controlled substance and possession of paraphernalia. When the case was reviewed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office, the suspect was formally charged with misdemeanor drug possession, while the felony charge was dropped.

Three weeks prior to the incident in the restroom, the suspect was arrested during a traffic stop in St. George after a K-9 was deployed and officers allegedly recovered a baggie of suspected methamphetamine. He was later charged with misdemeanor drug possession.

February arrest 

The incident at the restaurant was the second incident allegedly involving fentanyl that resulted in the suspect’s arrest. A prior incident was reported in February when police were dispatched to a park in St. George when an individual called 911 on Feb. 19, reporting suspicious activity taking place inside of a vehicle with three occupants sitting inside.

Officers arrived and spoke to the driver, later identified as Bithell, while a K-9 unit responded to the scene. The animal was deployed to conduct an exterior sniff of the vehicle and indicated to the possible presence of narcotics, at which point the car was searched.

As soon as the search began, the report states, Bithell became agitated and told officers they were going to find drug paraphernalia inside of the car “that was not his,” the officer noted.

During the search, officers were advised that two of the occupants had been arrested recently with fentanyl pills, and to use caution while going through the vehicle. Officers recovered a pill bottle from inside of the vehicle that allegedly contained two small pills that later tested positive for fentanyl, and were also similar to the pills seized during an undercover operation recently conducted in the area.

The suspect was arrested and transported to the Purgatory Correctional Facility on two active warrants, as well as one count of possession of a controlled substance, which was enhanced since the drugs were allegedly being used at a public park “that was open and filled with kids” at the time.

The suspect pleaded guilty to the charges in the four cases during a hearing held May 6, and he was fined and placed on 18-months’ bench probation.

Fentanyl exposure can be lethal 

Officers were cautioned by agents during the search of the car at the park in February due to the potential danger of handling the drug, as fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin, or if in a powder form, can be accidentally inhaled, according to a warning issued by the DEA.

The warning stated that merely touching or accidentally inhaling the substance during enforcement activity or while field testing the drug can result in absorption through the skin – which is one of the biggest dangers with the substance that can be deadly “at very low doses.”

As such, the DEA also warns the drug can be harmful or potentially fatal to police canines during the course of duty.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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