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We're guilty: St. Anne's defendants accept plea bargains

SCAFOLK032Bx003Fd07Item0042.pdf

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We're guilty: St. Anne's defendants accept plea bargains

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The three watchmen accused of ambushing trespassing high school students at St. Anne's retreat in Logan Canyon plead guilty and accept plea bargain.
We’re guilty: St. Anne’s defendants accept plea bargains

Surprise pleas bring end to trial
By Miriam Rand, Mike Weibel and Jake Santini
Staff writers

The three men accused of terrorizing 38 teen-agers and young adults at a former retreat in Logan Canyon pleaded guilty to lesser charges today, putting a surprise stop to the 3-day-old trial.

“Guilty,” John Jeppson said in 1st District Court.

“I plead guilty, your honor,” Christopher Doerr said to Judge Clint Judkins.

“Guilty,” Arthur Peasnall said.
The men had each been charged with six felony counts of aggravated assault for tying up the youngsters and threatening them with shotguns. Jeppson had also been charged with aggravated sexual assault.

In a plea agreement with prosecutors this morning, Jeppson pleaded guilty to two felony counts of aggravated assault, which carry a maximum prison sentence of five years and a $5,000 fine on each. The charge of forcible sexual abuse-for allegedly fondling a girl’s breasts while searching her-was dropped.

Doerr, Jeppson’s son-in-law, pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted aggravated assault, a misdemeanor. Each count carries a sentence of up to a year in prison and a $2, 500 fine.

Peasnall also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of attempted aggravated assault. As part of the plea agreement, the charges against Doerr and Peasnall were reduced from aggravated assault.

Doerr and Peasnall looked relieved and smiled and laughed together as Cache County Attorney Scott Wyatt amended the charges against them. Jeppson expressed little emotion.

After the hearing, Wyatt said the plea agreement should help resolve some of the controversy over whether the youngers themselves were to blame.

“I think this goes a long way to healing some of the divisiveness in the community,” Wyatt said. “Jeppson said he was wrong, and the kids and their families encouraged us to lessen the charges.”

Cindy Dahl, one of the 30 youngsters handcuffed by the three men in the bottom of an empty outdoor swimming pool at the retreat, said she was glad to be finished with the whole thing.

“It was a big relief,” Dahl said.

“Hearing them say they were guilty was worth it,” added Sean Maynard, another of the youngsters who was held hostage.

They agreed they had no problem with the reduced charges. They were also quick to add they’d never go up to St. Anne’s again.

“Never,” said Dahl. “I’m not that stupid.”

The lawyers for the three admitted their clients broke the law. Doerr’s attorney, Barbara Lachmar, said her client was pleading guilty because he assisted Jeppson in detaining the youngsters.

Peasnall’s lawyer, Arden Lauritzen, echoed Lachmar’s comments. Jeppson’s attorney, Greg Skordas, admitted his client used his firearm and assaulted the youngsters.

After the pleas were entered, Ruth Ann Clark, mother of one of the kids, said “I think the guys finally realized there was all the evidence against them. Justice was served.”

She added that the kids, who were originally cited for trespassing but had the charges dropped at the property owners’ request, have learned a lot from the experience.

Deputy Cache County Attorney Don Linton said he, too, was glad the case is over.

“It’s good to have the acknowledgment of guilt in this case,” he said. “This case has formed a sort of schism in this community.”

He said some people believe what the three men did was right-although it’s not.

“You can’t treat kids like this,” he added, noting that the teenagers and young adults weren’t doing anything wrong.

Cache County Sheriff’s Lt. Von Williamson said the three men learned what they did was, in fact, wrong. “It hasn’t been wasted time,” he said about the abruptly canceled trial.

The pleas bring an end to a saga that began in the early morning of Oct. 10 when Peasnall, Doerr and Jeppson detained eight teen-agers and young adults who were trying to get near the retreat eight miles up Logan Canyon for a Halloween thrill. Spooky stories about the old retreat supposedly being haunted by the ghosts of dead babies of Catholic nuns who once stayed there have been whispered around Cache Valley for years.

The three turned the young people over to deputy sheriffs, who cited them for trespassing. Then later that night, Jeppson, Doerr and Peasnall, dressed in dark clothes, duct-taped flash lights to their shotguns, doused the lights and caught 30 more youngsters at the retreat.

The men were accused of threatening all of the young people with guns, handcuffing them, fondling one of the girls and tying the rest together by their necks with a cord they said was hooked to explosives.

Jeppson, Doerr and Peasnall were released on previously posted bond. One of the stipulations of their release was that they have no contact with the victims or their families. Sentencing was set for Aug. 24 in 1st District Court.

[Photo: S. John Wilkin/Herald Journal. Caption: Defendant John Jeppson, left, leans forward and listens intently during court testimony Wednesday in his trial on charges related to last October’s terrorization of teen-agers at the former St. Anne’s retreat in Logan Canyon. Above, Judge Clint S. Judkins listens to arguments in the courtroom.]

[Photo: S. John Wilkin/Herald Journal. Caption: Cache County Attorney Scott Wyatt listens to a witness during courtroom questioning Wednesday in Logan.]


Retreat assault case may have turned on trespassing question
By Miriam Rand
Staff writer

The imposing 8-foot chain-link gate topped with razor wire and placarded with “no trespassing” signs that blocks the bridge leading to St. Anne’s Retreat certainly sends a strong message to people passing by.

And it’s not “come on in.”
Defense attorney in the trial for three men accused of capturing 38 Cache Valley teens and young adults who sneaked into the retreat last October for a Halloween scare argued this week that the teens should have gotten that message loud and clear. Obviously, someone didn’t want them there.

But there’s just one problem.

Most of that stuff, including the razor wire and the signs, shouldn’t be there either.

That’s according to testimony yesterday from U.S. Forest Service official Chip Sibbernsen, who said he himself had removed “no trespassing signs at St. Anne’s, as well as from other cabins permitted as summer homes in Logan Canyon over the years.

The permit holders at St. Anne’s have permission for a gate, he said, but not for the razor wire and signs that give the entrance to the retreat a prison camp appearance.

That’s because the land is still public land, he said, not private property.

Basically, while permit holders have the right to keep people out of their cabins, they can’t keep people from walking through on surrounding land. That’s why the Cache County Attorney’s Office dropped criminal trespassing charges against all 38 youths captured and held at gunpoint by the retreat’s caretaker, John Jeppson, his son-in-law Chris Doerr, and friend Arthur Peasnall.

The move raised the hackles of locals who said it was the kids who were in the wrong, and what the men did to defend the property was beside the point.

But there’s one more problem. According to Utah law, you can’t use deadly force to defend property.

And pointing a gun at someone and saying you are going to kill them qualifies as deadly force, Cache County Attorney Scott Wyatt argued.

The three men were charged with aggravated assault about a week after the incidents.

Since then, Lt. Von Williamson of the Cache County Sheriff’s Office said he’s even had complaints from some of the parents of the kids about the trespassing charges against them being dropped.

That wasn’t, however, what a group of upset parents were saying when they showed up at the Sheriff’s Office the afternoon after their kids were cuffed and held at gunpoint at St. Anne’s.

They wanted to know why nothing was being done to the men that are now on trial for aggravated assault for holding the kids at gunpoint and threatening to shoot them if they ran.

And while it’s not against the law for kids to walk through St. Anne’s in the middle of the night, should they?

“To me, as a parent, no,” Sibbernsen said. The gate should be a signal that somebody doesn’t want you in there.”

The trespassing question apparently played a role in today’s sudden turnabout in the case, with the three defendants agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for reduced charges. County Attorney Wyatt indicated since arguments about protection of private property were made moot, Jeppson and his co-defendants had no ground to stand on.

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Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives, FOLK COLL 32

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Reproduction for publication, exhibition, web display or commercial use is only permissible with the consent of the USU Libraries Special Collections and Archives, phone (435) 797-2663.

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Utah State University Folklore in the news collection, 1973-2012, FOLK COLL 32
http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv04849
St. Anne's Retreat

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http://digital.lib.usu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p16944coll20/id/46
SCAFOLK032Bx003Fd07Item0042.pdf

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We’re guilty: St. Anne’s defendants accept plea bargains

Surprise pleas bring end to trial
By Miriam Rand, Mike Weibel and Jake Santini
Staff writers

The three men accused of terrorizing 38 teen-agers and young adults at a former retreat in Logan Canyon pleaded guilty to lesser charges today, putting a surprise stop to the 3-day-old trial.

“Guilty,” John Jeppson said in 1st District Court.

“I plead guilty, your honor,” Christopher Doerr said to Judge Clint Judkins.

“Guilty,” Arthur Peasnall said.
The men had each been charged with six felony counts of aggravated assault for tying up the youngsters and threatening them with shotguns. Jeppson had also been charged with aggravated sexual assault.

In a plea agreement with prosecutors this morning, Jeppson pleaded guilty to two felony counts of aggravated assault, which carry a maximum prison sentence of five years and a $5,000 fine on each. The charge of forcible sexual abuse—for allegedly fondling a girl’s breasts while searching her—was dropped.

Doerr, Jeppson’s son-in-law, pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted aggravated assault, a misdemeanor. Each count carries a sentence of up to a year in prison and a $2, 500 fine.

Peasnall also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of attempted aggravated assault. As part of the plea agreement, the charges against Doerr and Peasnall were reduced from aggravated assault.

Doerr and Peasnall looked relieved and smiled and laughed together as Cache County Attorney Scott Wyatt amended the charges against them. Jeppson expressed little emotion.

After the hearing, Wyatt said the plea agreement should help resolve some of the controversy over whether the youngers themselves were to blame.

“I think this goes a long way to healing some of the divisiveness in the community,” Wyatt said. “Jeppson said he was wrong, and the kids and their families encouraged us to lessen the charges.”

Cindy Dahl, one of the 30 youngsters handcuffed by the three men in the bottom of an empty outdoor swimming pool at the retreat, said she was glad to be finished with the whole thing.

“It was a big relief,” Dahl said.

“Hearing them say they were guilty was worth it,” added Sean Maynard, another of the youngsters who was held hostage.

They agreed they had no problem with the reduced charges. They were also quick to add they’d never go up to St. Anne’s again.

“Never,” said Dahl. “I’m not that stupid.”

The lawyers for the three admitted their clients broke the law. Doerr’s attorney, Barbara Lachmar, said her client was pleading guilty because he assisted Jeppson in detaining the youngsters.

Peasnall’s lawyer, Arden Lauritzen, echoed Lachmar’s comments. Jeppson’s attorney, Greg Skordas, admitted his client used his firearm and assaulted the youngsters.

After the pleas were entered, Ruth Ann Clark, mother of one of the kids, said “I think the guys finally realized there was all the evidence against them. Justice was served.”

She added that the kids, who were originally cited for trespassing but had the charges dropped at the property owners’ request, have learned a lot from the experience.

Deputy Cache County Attorney Don Linton said he, too, was glad the case is over.

“It’s good to have the acknowledgment of guilt in this case,” he said. “This case has formed a sort of schism in this community.”

He said some people believe what the three men did was right—although it’s not.

“You can’t treat kids like this,” he added, noting that the teenagers and young adults weren’t doing anything wrong.

Cache County Sheriff’s Lt. Von Williamson said the three men learned what they did was, in fact, wrong. “It hasn’t been wasted time,” he said about the abruptly canceled trial.

The pleas bring an end to a saga that began in the early morning of Oct. 10 when Peasnall, Doerr and Jeppson detained eight teen-agers and young adults who were trying to get near the retreat eight miles up Logan Canyon for a Halloween thrill. Spooky stories about the old retreat supposedly being haunted by the ghosts of dead babies of Catholic nuns who once stayed there have been whispered around Cache Valley for years.

The three turned the young people over to deputy sheriffs, who cited them for trespassing. Then later that night, Jeppson, Doerr and Peasnall, dressed in dark clothes, duct-taped flash lights to their shotguns, doused the lights and caught 30 more youngsters at the retreat.

The men were accused of threatening all of the young people with guns, handcuffing them, fondling one of the girls and tying the rest together by their necks with a cord they said was hooked to explosives.

Jeppson, Doerr and Peasnall were released on previously posted bond. One of the stipulations of their release was that they have no contact with the victims or their families. Sentencing was set for Aug. 24 in 1st District Court.

[Photo: S. John Wilkin/Herald Journal. Caption: Defendant John Jeppson, left, leans forward and listens intently during court testimony Wednesday in his trial on charges related to last October’s terrorization of teen-agers at the former St. Anne’s retreat in Logan Canyon. Above, Judge Clint S. Judkins listens to arguments in the courtroom.]

[Photo: S. John Wilkin/Herald Journal. Caption: Cache County Attorney Scott Wyatt listens to a witness during courtroom questioning Wednesday in Logan.]


Retreat assault case may have turned on trespassing question
By Miriam Rand
Staff writer

The imposing 8-foot chain-link gate topped with razor wire and placarded with “no trespassing” signs that blocks the bridge leading to St. Anne’s Retreat certainly sends a strong message to people passing by.

And it’s not “come on in.”
Defense attorney in the trial for three men accused of capturing 38 Cache Valley teens and young adults who sneaked into the retreat last October for a Halloween scare argued this week that the teens should have gotten that message loud and clear. Obviously, someone didn’t want them there.

But there’s just one problem.

Most of that stuff, including the razor wire and the signs, shouldn’t be there either.

That’s according to testimony yesterday from U.S. Forest Service official Chip Sibbernsen, who said he himself had removed “no trespassing signs at St. Anne’s, as well as from other cabins permitted as summer homes in Logan Canyon over the years.

The permit holders at St. Anne’s have permission for a gate, he said, but not for the razor wire and signs that give the entrance to the retreat a prison camp appearance.

That’s because the land is still public land, he said, not private property.

Basically, while permit holders have the right to keep people out of their cabins, they can’t keep people from walking through on surrounding land. That’s why the Cache County Attorney’s Office dropped criminal trespassing charges against all 38 youths captured and held at gunpoint by the retreat’s caretaker, John Jeppson, his son-in-law Chris Doerr, and friend Arthur Peasnall.

The move raised the hackles of locals who said it was the kids who were in the wrong, and what the men did to defend the property was beside the point.

But there’s one more problem. According to Utah law, you can’t use deadly force to defend property.

And pointing a gun at someone and saying you are going to kill them qualifies as deadly force, Cache County Attorney Scott Wyatt argued.

The three men were charged with aggravated assault about a week after the incidents.

Since then, Lt. Von Williamson of the Cache County Sheriff’s Office said he’s even had complaints from some of the parents of the kids about the trespassing charges against them being dropped.

That wasn’t, however, what a group of upset parents were saying when they showed up at the Sheriff’s Office the afternoon after their kids were cuffed and held at gunpoint at St. Anne’s.

They wanted to know why nothing was being done to the men that are now on trial for aggravated assault for holding the kids at gunpoint and threatening to shoot them if they ran.

And while it’s not against the law for kids to walk through St. Anne’s in the middle of the night, should they?

“To me, as a parent, no,” Sibbernsen said. The gate should be a signal that somebody doesn’t want you in there.”

The trespassing question apparently played a role in today’s sudden turnabout in the case, with the three defendants agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for reduced charges. County Attorney Wyatt indicated since arguments about protection of private property were made moot, Jeppson and his co-defendants had no ground to stand on.


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