The Utah attorney general's office has received dozens of requests to investigate child sexual abuse cases from people who believe county prosecutors are not doing enough to address the problem, officials say.
Most requests have come in the past six months, during the extensive publicity surrounding the Lehi child sexual abuse investigation that resulted in the felony convictions of Allan B. Hadfield."I can't say for sure that our willingness to get involved in the Lehi investigation is the reason we have received all these other requests to investigate alleged child sex abuse," said Rob Parrish, assistant attorney general and the state's prosecutor on child abuse cases. "But the number of requests certainly has increased since the word of our Lehi investigation has gotten out."
The attorney general's office took over the Lehi investigation after parents became frustrated because no charges had come from the Utah County attorney's office following a year-long investigation.
Now, the attorney general is inundated with similar complaints from throughout the state, Parrish said.
"We have kicked a lot of these cases back to the local prosecutors to take a look at," he said. "But we have decided to take about 10 or 12 of them ourselves, and that has created quite a backlog."
During the attorney general's investigation, Lehi residents complained to legislators about a "witch hunt."
Parrish said that before the Lehi case "we might have gotten two or three requests a year. In fact, before Lehi, we only got involved in the prosecution of one child sex abuse case, in Tooele, and one child abuse homicide case, in St. George."
"Not only is child sex abuse a problem that officials are often reluctant to deal with, but child physical abuse cases present the same kinds of problems," said Paul Warner, associate deputy attorney general.
"Oftentimes, when we are asked to look at a child abuse case, it is after that case has become a homicide, and the child is dead," he said. "And the sad thing is that oftentimes, law enforcement has been called in on those cases in the past, but nothing was done. Oftentimes, the victim has a history of hospitalizations, but nothing was done."