Ex-boyfriend jailed in assaults, kidnappings of BYU student

Published: Thursday, July 26 2012 3:57 p.m. MDT

Juan Alberto Leiva, 23, is charged with kidnapping and stripping a BYU student after learning she had gone out with another man. Prosecutors say he has a "serial pattern" of violence involving the woman and a judge agreed to keep him jailed on a high bail.

, Utah County Jail

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PROVO — A man accused of kidnapping and assaulting his ex-girlfriend on four separate occasions was ordered Thursday to remain in jail.

Juan Alberto Leiva, 23, was arrested June 9 and charged with aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and assault, a class B misdemeanor, after he allegedly attacked and stripped the BYU student after learning she had gone out with another man.

He posted bail and was released, but was arrested again Wednesday after additional interviews with his alleged victim led prosecutors to believe other similar crimes were committed.

Leiva took his then-girlfriend, a 20-year-old student, against her will four times between Christmas of 2011 and June 9, according to a police affidavit filed in 4th District Court. In each instance, the man allegedly yelled at the woman before ripping her clothing.

Prosecutor Craig Johnson said investigators originally believed the June 9 incident was an isolated incident, but new information pointed to a "serial pattern" of violence. He asked 4th District Judge Samuel McVey to keep the man in the Utah County Jail on a $30,000 cash-only bond.

"This is violent conduct, judge, and it is very concerning," Johnson said.

But defense attorney Darren Levitt argued that his client has no prior criminal history, has the support of family in the area and holds a steady job. He said Leiva is a computer science student at Utah Valley University who has already complied with court orders, including a no-contact order with the woman.

"He's gone out of his way to avoid places she might be," Levitt told the judge. "He's had no problem appearing (in court). There's no reason Mr. Leiva should have spent the night in jail."

But McVey disagreed, pointing to the potential risk to the alleged victim and the actions Leiva is accused of taking to chase his ex-girlfriend on June 9, which included shoving a bystander who tried to intervene. The judge said that allegation "would indicate a certain determination to carry out the assaults."

"That's concerning to the court, that he would assault someone who is attempting to break up a first-degree felony kidnapping," the judge said.

Formal charges have only been filed in connection with the June 9 incident. He was booked into jail Wednesday for investigation of three additional counts of aggravated kidnapping and four counts of criminal mischief.

Two days after the couple broke up, Leiva heard that the woman had gone on a date with another man, the police affidavit states.

"When the defendant found out about this, he confronted her at her apartment, grabbing her by her arm and forcing her into his car, where he drove her to an empty parking lot," according to charging documents.

The man allegedly questioned the woman about her date and asked to see her cellphone and look at her text messages. When she refused to hand over her phone, Leiva ripped off her clothing, including her shirt and underwear, the charges state.

"After he drove to the stop light at Ninth East and Ninth North, the victim was able to run away down the street before the defendant caught up to her and tackled her on the sidewalk," according to the charges. "The totality of this detention and assault terrorized and caused pain to the victim."

A man then confronted Leiva, but was pushed away, which gave the woman a chance to run back to her apartment and get some clothes, the charges state.

Leiva is accused of taking the woman against her will, yelling at her and ripping her clothes at various locations in Provo and Provo Canyon on three earlier occasions between December and February. In the earliest incident, the woman repeatedly opened the passenger door "hoping some passer-by might notice her distress," the affidavit states. She also took the keys out of the ignition.

"The defendant stopped at a park in Provo Canyon, where he got on top of the victim, holding her, shaking her, screaming at her and ripping her shirt," the affidavit states. "During the struggle, the victim broke the defendant's car windshield as she was trying to kick him off of her. This incident terrorized and caused bodily harm to the victim."

Johnson said the alleged victim told police that she did not want anything to happen to Leiva and that she did not want him to go to jail. Her opinion has not changed, but she has met with prosecutors and is preparing to testify at Leiva's preliminary hearing on Aug. 13.

"She's ready to cut ties and understands the ramifications," Johnson said.

Levitt said that when the facts are presented in court, they will not reflect the seriousness of the charges.

"This is not a case where you have a ski mask and a a knife or a gun," he said. "This is an ex-boyfriend and an ex-girlfriend and a stormy relationship."

Johnson said Leiva met the alleged victim years ago at a wedding and took her to her senior prom. He decided to ask that Leiva's bail amount be raised "based on the pattern of violence in this relationship."

Leiva's family attended the hearing and were emotional upon hearing the judge's ruling. They declined to comment.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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