State v. Ringstad

Decision Date12 April 2018
Docket NumberNo. 20150524-CA,20150524-CA
Citation424 P.3d 1052
Parties STATE of Utah, Appellee, v. Jeffrey Parnell RINGSTAD, Appellant.
CourtUtah Court of Appeals

Stephen W. Howard, Attorney for Appellant

Sean D. Reyes and Christopher D. Ballard, Salt Lake City, Attorneys for Appellee

Judge Michele M. Christiansen authored this Second Amended Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K. Orme and David N. Mortensen concurred.2

Second Amended Opinion1

CHRISTIANSEN, Judge:

¶1 Jeffrey Parnell Ringstad (Defendant) appeals his convictions for two counts of rape of a child, one count of object rape of a child, two counts of sodomy on a child, and three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, all first degree felonies. We affirm.

BACKGROUND3

¶2 Defendant married a woman (Mother) in September 2009. Defendant and Mother lived together with Mother’s minor children—the victim (Victim) and her older sister (Sister).

¶3 In 2011, as the family was preparing to be "sealed" in an LDS temple, Mother asked Victim if she "felt worthy to go to the temple so [they] could have [their] forever family." According to Mother, Victim stated that she "felt like she was good but she didn’t feel like everybody involved was [worthy]." Victim explained to Mother that "[Defendant] had been touching [her] inappropriately."

¶4 Mother confronted Defendant with Victim’s allegations. Defendant denied sexually abusing Victim. Defendant suggested that "[Victim] was having nightmares, it must have been dreams, it wasn’t true." Mother believed Defendant because he "was the man [she] was getting ready to go through the temple [with], he was a police officer, he was a firefighter." Mother and Defendant told Victim that she must have been dreaming because Defendant "would never do anything like that to [her]." Victim "went along with it."

¶5 Victim later testified that she "knew what had happened, ... that [Defendant] was touching [her] and that they weren’t dreams," but she went along with Mother and Defendant because Defendant had threatened to divorce Mother. Victim wanted "an eternal family" and wanted Defendant and Mother to stay together.

¶6 In September 2013, Defendant disclosed to Mother that he was having an affair, and they separated in October 2013. Defendant moved to live with his new girlfriend.4 About a week after Defendant moved out, Victim told a school counselor that Defendant had sexually abused her. Victim later testified that she told the counselor because she "was losing [her] forever family."

¶7 In November 2013, a detective interviewed Victim after she received a referral from the Division of Child and Family Services. During her interview with the detective, Victim alleged that on at least two separate occasions, Defendant had "tried to put his penis inside of her and that it hurt." The detective also met with Mother, who relayed an allegation by Sister that Defendant had "come into her bedroom and wanted to cuddle with her," but Sister told him to get out.5 The detective gave Sister an opportunity to make a written statement, but Sister did not make any disclosures regarding rape or other sexual abuse at that time. According to the detective, the witness statement form had "a disclaimer that tells people to make sure they fill that out honestly" and "if they fill it out and it’s not honest, they could be charged with a crime."

¶8 Around that time, the detective also interviewed Defendant. A video recording of Defendant’s interview was played for the jury at trial. In the recording, Defendant admitted that there were "a couple of incidents where [he and Victim] had some inappropriate touching." When the detective asked Defendant to explain "how [he] inappropriately touched [Victim]," Defendant explained, "I touched [Victim’s] private areas with my hands and with my privates" "[t]wo or three" times.

¶9 In December 2013, a pediatric nurse physically examined both Victim and Sister. She testified that neither child’s examination revealed any "trauma or ... tearing or ... scar tissue." The pediatric nurse explained that this was not unusual because "the body can ... heal very quickly in that area."

¶10 Defendant was charged with two counts of rape of a child, one count of object rape of a child, two counts of sodomy on a child, and three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

Victim’s Testimony

¶11 At trial, Victim testified that Defendant sexually abused her from the summer of 2011 through "June or July of 2013." The abuse occurred in Defendant’s bedroom. According to Victim, Defendant called her "his baby girl" "[w]hile he was touching [her]," but he never called her that before the abuse began. Victim testified that there had been multiple instances of inappropriate touching, but she only testified with particularity about two instances.

¶12 Victim testified that the first instance had occurred in the early morning after Mother had gone to work. Defendant picked Victim up and carried her to his room, where he laid her on his bed and took off her clothes. Defendant took off his robe, revealing that he had no clothes on underneath. Victim had "no idea what was going on" and "was so scared." According to Victim, Defendant told her "if [she] ever told anyone what he was about to do, that he would get a divorce with [her] mom." Defendant then got on top of Victim and started touching her breasts with his hands. Defendant also licked her vagina. Defendant then "sat up and ... tried to push his penis" into Victim’s vagina. When Victim told him to stop, Defendant "reached over to his night stand drawer and pulled out a bottle of green jelly." Defendant squeezed some of the jelly "on his finger and ... started rubbing [Victim’s] vagina with it and then he tried to push his penis into [her] vagina again." Defendant pushed his penis into Victim’s vagina "[a] little bit" and ultimately ejaculated "[o]n top of [her] vagina."

¶13 Victim testified that the second incident also occurred in the early morning while Mother was at work. Defendant again carried Victim from her room to his room, laid her on his bed, and took off her clothes. She testified that Defendant was again wearing a robe but that this time, he wore religious "garments" underneath the robe. Defendant asked Victim "if [she] wanted to make love." When Victim asked Defendant what that meant, he replied, "I’ll show you." Defendant then "put his finger in [Victim] and started fingering [her]." Victim told Defendant that she "didn’t want to do this, that it hurt too much." Defendant then "reached over to his night stand drawer and ... grabbed the bottle of green jelly." Defendant set the bottle on the bed and started licking Victim’s vagina. He then rubbed the jelly on Victim’s vagina and his penis and "tried to put his penis in [her] [while] he kept grabbing [her] breasts and squeezing them." Victim testified that Defendant again put his penis inside her "[a] little bit" and that he ejaculated in her vagina. Defendant told Victim that "[she] had to go sit on the toilet for it to come out."

¶14 Victim further testified that she did not "call for help" or tell anyone because she did not want anyone to know about the abuse and because Defendant was her "first image of a father and [she] wanted to keep it that way. [She] wanted her forever family to be forever." In addition to the two specific instances that Victim described, she estimated that Defendant had touched her inappropriately more than ten times between the summers of 2011 and 2013, but she also testified it happened "sometimes once, twice a week."

Sister’s Testimony

¶15 In November 2013, while she was visiting her grandmother for Thanksgiving, Sister claimed, for the first time, that she had also been previously sexually abused by Defendant. Sister met with the detective a second time after the Thanksgiving holiday. Sister testified at trial that Defendant had raped her approximately thirty times from early 2011 to the summer of 2013. Sister testified that the rapes occurred in her downstairs bedroom.

¶16 According to Sister, "[f]or the first little while, [Defendant] would just come down in his ... garments," and "he would rub [her] back underneath [her] shirt." This happened for approximately six months. Sister testified that Defendant then started removing both his and Sister’s clothes and raping her. Sister testified that the rapes were violent and that she would "try to fight and ... kick and get away from him," but Defendant "started putting belts around [her], around [her] arms so that [she] couldn’t flail." Sister stated that Defendant would sometimes bring his own belt to bind her arms, but more often than not he used her belt. Defendant threatened to divorce Mother if Sister told anyone.

¶17 Sister acknowledged that she had told police that during the rapes, Defendant would sometimes "throw [her] around and grip on [her] hair." Sister also told police that Defendant would "spank [her] buttocks so hard that it [became] red and it hurt" and that the rapes caused her to bleed. And while Victim had testified that Defendant called her his "baby girl" when he abused her, Sister testified that Defendant never called her that.

¶18 Sister further acknowledged that during and after the alleged abuse, she maintained good grades and participated in extracurricular activities. She also admitted that after Victim had reported Defendant’s abuse, Mother had asked Sister if Defendant had been abusing her, and Sister had replied that he had not.

Mother’s Testimony

¶19 Mother testified that although Victim told her in 2011 that Defendant had "been touching her inappropriately," Mother believed Defendant when he denied abusing Victim because "[h]e was the man that [she] was married to and getting ready to be sealed to."

¶20 Mother testified that when she learned that Defendant was having an affair with his new girlfriend, her "world crumbled" and she had "suicidal thoughts." Mother stated, "We were sealed in the temple, he was supposed to be my eternal spouse [but] he’s having an...

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