Stock photo
Two female inmates in the Duchesne County Jail have been charged with forcible sexual abuse for strip searching two other inmates, according to the Duchesne County Sheriff's Office.

ROOSEVELT — Two female inmates in the Duchesne County Jail have been charged with forcible sexual abuse for strip searching two other inmates, according to the Duchesne County Sheriff's Office.

Zhondee Spring Nephi, 30, of Fort Duchesne, and Letha Ilene Beston, 21, were each charged Wednesday in 8th District Court with two counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. Nephi received an additional charge of assault by a prisoner, a third-degree felony.

On Oct. 29, a female inmate reported that she had been punched by Nephi, according to the sheriff's office. When deputies checked the jail's surveillance video to verify the story, they observed two women being taken into the shower area and forced to take their clothes off, according to charging documents.

Nephi told police she was missing packets of sugar she had purchased from the commissary and believed the two other female inmates took them, charging documents state. One victim was forced to take off her clothes twice, the charges state.

Comment on this story

As one of the women was leaving the shower, she confronted Nephi, the charges state. Nephi responded by grabbing the woman's throat and punching her in the face, the charges state. The victim told deputies she felt the sugar story was "made up" and the strip search was done to "belittle" the two women and make them "feel smaller" than the other women, the charges state.

Beston told investigators she was acting "at the command" of Nephi, according to the sheriff's office.

Nephi is currently in the Duchesne County Jail as part of an investigation by Bureau of Indian Affairs into the Aug. 23 murder of Sukakee Manyhides on the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation.

Beston, is in jail for a weapons offense under a sheriff's office contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.