Although they are trying to wake up from one of their worst nightmares, the parents of two girls who were sexually assaulted at their own home during a weekend campout are grateful that the girls are still alive.

"I'm happy they are alive. I thank God for that," said the father of two girls, ages 11 and 12, who were assaulted by a man early Sunday. A third girl, an 11-year-old friend who was sleeping over, was also assaulted."I wish there was a death penalty for what he did," the father said. "He ruined three lives. It is something they will remember for the rest of their lives."

Sunday, police arrested a man in connection with the assaults. The man lives in an apartment about a half block from the girls, said South Salt Lake Police Sgt. Beau Babka.

Monday, the parents of the two girls who live in the house were still trying to get over the shock. They said they had been bowling Saturday night, and when they returned home they found their 11-year-old daughter sleeping on the living room couch.

They knew that the 12-year-old girl and her 11-year-old friend were sleeping in a tent in the back yard and went directly to bed in their basement bedroom.

About 2 a.m., the couple's 11-year-old daughter woke them up saying a man had been in the house.

"We jumped out of bed," the father said. He called 911 while the mother went to look for the girls outside. The girls were awake and asked the mother if "the man was gone," she said.

Babka said the man cut the tent open with a knife and threatened to slit the girls' throats if they screamed or resisted.

The girls told their parents that the man had said he was a police officer. He ordered them to keep their eyes closed and shielded their faces with pillows and blankets during the abuse, the parents said.

After raping the 12-year-old girl and assaulting the 11-year-old friend, the man entered the house and also abused the 11-year-old sister, the parents said.

Working with the description provided by the victims themselves and information gathered from canvassing every resident in the neighborhood, police were able to identify a suspect by early Sunday afternoon.

Babka said the girls also picked the suspect out of a "photo line-up." They recognized him as a man who had previously invited them to his apartment to play video games, the parents said.

The father said he had seen the man talking to his girls on at least one occasion. "I told them to stay away from him," he said. "He was bothering them, and they told him to leave them alone."

Word of the arrest spread quickly in the Burton Avenue (2359 South) neighborhood and was met with relief tempered by the shock of the crime.

"I'm shaken terribly," said neighbor Fern Brooks. "We've never had anything like this in the 51 years we've lived here on Burton."

She said the arrest late Sunday left her feeling somewhat calmer, "but it's such a terrible thing for this to happen to these little girls."

Brooks said her own children and grandchildren also used to sleep out in the back yard, but the tradition ended with her great-grandchildren.

"No way. We stopped it a long time ago," she said. Too many strangers, too many cars driving by, she explained.

Charlie Spicer, another longtime resident of Burton Avenue, said while the neighborhood generally has been a safe one during the 50 years he's lived there, he's not surprised that such a horrible crime finally found its way to the street.

"It's been growing here in South Salt Lake just like everywhere else," Spicer said. "You have to be be on your guard all the time now."

Officers arrested Raymond Lynn Butterfield, 37, and booked him into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of rape, sodomy of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child and aggravated burglary.