Man arrested for alleged sexual abuse of teen while working at St. George facility for at-risk youth

Composite image with background stock photo and overlay of Washington City Police vehicle taken in Washington City, Utah, May 11, 2021 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A local man is scheduled to appear in 5th District Court this week on second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse in connection with a case filed last year involving one of the teens housed at a residential facility for at-risk youth, where the suspect was reportedly a staff member.

Residential facility for troubled teen located off of Blackridge Drive in St. George, Utah, Nov. 165, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Google Maps, St. George News

On Saturday, 31-year-old Damon Rashard Owens was arrested and booked into jail in Washington County shortly after 3 p.m. on a warrant issued out of 5th District Court on July 1. The warrant was in connection with a case involving two charges, including a second-degree felony sexual abuse charge, as well as a misdemeanor lewdness charge.

According to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest, the warrant stems from an incident that reportedly took place at a residential facility for at-risk youth located off of Blackridge Drive in St. George, where Owens was working as a staff member at the time.

The incident was initially reported in August 2020 by a caseworker with the Division of Children and Family Services who contacted the detective’s division of the St. George Police Department for follow up.

The caseworker became involved when one of the teens housed at the facility reported that one of the staff members working at the residential facility touched her buttocks, the report states. The employee was later identified as Owens. 

During a forensic interview conducted at the Juvenile Justice Center, the teen reportedly told officers that after touching her inappropriately, Owens asked her to touch his genitals, which she did by reaching back behind her while facing away from him. 

Police say that shortly after that incident, the suspect followed the teen into the laundry room where he dropped his shorts and allegedly exposed himself to the girl, adding that the teen said Owens told her “not to tell anyone” about what had taken place. 

Officers reviewed surveillance footage that showed Owens following the girl into the laundry room, but once the pair left the hallway they disappeared from view, as there were no cameras in the laundry room itself. 

When officers contacted the suspect on Nov. 4, 2020, Owens reportedly said he had an attorney and would not be answering any questions. Shortly thereafter, the suspect surrendered himself at Purgatory Correctional Facility and was booked into jail on the charges that were filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office the following day. He was later released from jail after posting bond. 

From there, the case continued to move through the courts, and after a series of continuances and discovery issues, the defendant failed to appear for a change of plea hearing held July 1, which is when the warrant was issued for his arrest.

Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams told St. George News that on Saturday, one of his officers saw the suspect leaving a business in Washington City and verified the warrant was still active through emergency dispatch. The officer then followed Owens to his residence, where he was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility.

The warrant was recalled following Saturday’s arrest and Owens is scheduled to appear for a change of plea hearing in 5th District Court on Thursday.

Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained. 

This report is based on statements from court records, 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, 2021, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!