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Ex-funeral home director sent to prison in 'reprehensible' child porn case

Published: Friday, Oct. 4 2013 2:59 p.m. MDT

Spencer McDougal, 56, was sentenced Friday to serve 18 1/2 years in prison for production of child pornography.

Davis County Jail

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SALT LAKE CITY — The former vice president of McDougal Funeral Homes was sent to prison Friday for the "reprehensible" crime of creating child pornography.

Spencer McDougal, 56, was sentenced to serve 222 months, or 18 ½ years, for sexual exploitation of children for production of child pornography. With credit for time served and time for good behavior, he may spend 15 years in prison, attorneys said.

“These are cases that keep us awake at night for a long time. It’s reprehensible what you’ve done,” U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffer said.

In May 2011, a local church leader notified the Utah Division of Child and Family Services that an anonymous person had seen child pornography on McDougal's personal computer, including video of a child walking around a bedroom wearing only a towel, a federal complaint states.

When questioned by Taylorsville police, McDougal admitted to buying a "nanny cam" and hiding the small camera in a room where a minor was regularly changing clothes or was naked, the complaint states.

Investigators say McDougal met at least two 16-year-old girls on Facebook while posing as a 17-year-old boy from Idaho named "James Zupo Marsden." After chatting online and texting for a few months, he asked the teens to send him sexually explicit photos, which they did, the complaint states. He never met the girls in person, but was communicating with them as recently as August 2011.

Following an examination of his computers, thumb drives and cellphone, investigators discovered "several hundred sexually suggestive photographs of minor females," including nude photos of one of the girls he met on Facebook.

McDougal's crimes may have "long-lasting effects and there’s no guarantee that those will be resolved by counseling," Nuffer said.

The sentence was not only about McDougal's criminal behavior, but his personality traits, including narcissism and lack of empathy, the judge said.

McDougal will either serve his term in a facility in Petersburg, Va., that has sex addiction treatment or one in the western United States that will offer similar treatment.

After his release, he will be on supervision for the rest of his life. All his electronics will be monitored and he will be unable to contact anyone under 18 without his probation officer's approval and adult supervision. He was also ordered to pay a fine of $100,000. Any restitution, which will be determined, will need to be paid before the fine.

The government dropped the charge of coercion and enticement for illegal sexual activity in exchange for his guilty plea to production of child pornography.

McDougal has shown a pattern of "justifying his actions and blaming others," prosecutor Carol Dain said. Because the children were not aware that they were being recorded, McDougal was operating under the assumption of "what you don't know won't hurt you," she said.

“The blame or the excuse is on the victim, not a recognition of the issues he has with sexual deviancy," Dain said.

She described McDougal's behavior as "cyclical."

“He downloads. He feels bad. He deletes. But then he goes back,” she said. "He has exceeded the bounds of offending. ... Mr. McDougal is a dangerous individual. He is a dangerous to this community.”

McDougal still needed to understand what triggered his sexual deviance, "and I don't think he's there today," Dain said, to which the judge agreed.

Defense attorney Ron Yengich asked for less than the maximum 30-year sentence, so his client could rehabilitate and reconstruct the "edifice" of who he was before his own actions destroyed it.

“We cannot take away what he did,” he said.

Yengich said he could sense the pain and unease of the victims who testified, but said it is up to them to make sure they did not let this ruin their lives.

“If they want help, they’ve got to seek it,” he said.

McDougal told the judge he was grateful for his “loving and supportive family. Even though they hate the sin, they love the sinner.”

He said he prays for his family and for those whom he hurt.

"Your honor, I have been born of goodly parents and I have been taught the difference between right and wrong. I know that difference. I know I’ve done wrong. I spent just under two years, day and day thinking about what I have done," he said.

"I’m so sorry. ... I know I can never make those things right."

He said he thought about those he hurt and wonders how they are doing. He realizes his actions could haunt them for the rest of their lives and asked them to forgive him.

“I want the court and those individuals to know that I do — I accept full responsibility. I know this won't be easy and it will be a long time. I know that I need to pay and I need to do some time and I know that I need a lot of help,” he said.

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com, Twitter: whitevs7

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