WOODS CROSS — It was a six-word Facebook post that caught her eye.
As Jenny Jones Wallentine scrolled through an event page made for her 30th high school reunion, she read the post: “So sad it took so long.”
Curious, she followed the link to a news story about the arrest of Doug Tate, 70, a former high school chemistry teacher who was accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl.
“I was sick to my stomach,” Wallentine recalled. “I didn’t want (this girl) to go through what I had gone through for 30 years.”
More than three decades ago, Wallentine was a 17-year-old senior at Highland High School. Her mother was in the hospital with leukemia, and Wallentine was falling behind in class — particularly Tate's AP chemistry class.
In what she thought was a gesture of kindness, she said Tate started calling Wallentine at home to check on her. Since she was spending so much time visiting her mother, he suggested she come to his home near the hospital to study for his class.
"I stopped by there believing he would tutor me and help me catch up on my homework," she said when she first went to Tate's home after track practice.
At his home, she noticed school papers scattered on Tate's living room table, ready for studying. Yet the last thing she said she remembers is accepting a drink and waking up on the floor without her clothes.
"Thirty years later, it’s still emotionally disturbing to me," Wallentine, 49, said, struggling to keep emotion from her voice. “I didn’t really know what had happened, and I couldn’t figure out why or how this had happened or could’ve happened from a teacher.”
Tate continued to call her, Wallentine said, threatening to kill himself if she left him. The abuse continued until she graduated a few weeks later.
"I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t know where to turn and I didn’t know anyone would listen to me,” Wallentine said. She buried her mother a couple of hours before the graduation ceremony.
Fast forward to December 2016. After seeing the Facebook post, Wallentine immediately reached out to the investigator handling the sexual assault case, Farmington police detective Scott Richardson. After telling him her story, she asked if he could put her in touch with the 16-year-old victim in the news stories.
If there was any way she could, she told Richardson, “I would love to help her.”
“I know what I have been through, what this does to you,” she added.
That recent victim was Marissa Jeppson, now 17. She and her parents recently sat down with the Deseret News and Wallentine to discuss her experiences that ended in Tate receiving a sentence in October of three years to life in prison.
She insisted on being identified in the story.
“This is why I’m coming forward, for those people who maybe don’t have friends or family who are there for them,” she said. “I’m here for you, and Jenny is here for you, and all the other survivors of this kind of abuse are there for you. We can help each other get through the hard days.”
'She is my hero'
Jeppson and Wallentine first decided to meet at a restaurant. Jeppson said the two embraced, and avoiding the topic of abuse, they started talking about their lives and families and friends.
Jeppson reminded Wallentine of herself at that age.
“I am so proud of (Jeppson) for standing up and sharing the truth of what happened,” she said. “She is my hero, she really is."
For her part, Jeppson was inspired by Wallentine’s happy life with her husband and three kids.
“I was going to be OK,” she said she realized. “I was going to be able to move on.”
As the conversation drifted into their stories of abuse, Wallentine was shocked by the similarities. Tate used the same controlling techniques on both women, she said, and took advantage of their vulnerable situations.
"There was correlation everywhere," Wallentine said.
Jeppson met Tate during a summer chemistry program in June 2016. She was struggling with a previous relationship, and Tate told her he cared about her and wanted to help her.
Tate was teaching chemistry part-time at Viewmont High School in Bountiful and living in Kaysville at the time. He started texting Jeppson after the summer program ended, telling her she was special and asking her to meet him at secluded locations, including at a hotel room.
"We weren’t special to him. It was just his game that he was playing," Jeppson said.
"He knew what he was doing."
For months during her junior year, she met with him during the week. Tate continued to manipulate her, making her feel guilty when she was busy with other school activities and asking her if she was attracted to other male teachers.
At the end of November 2016, feeling overwhelmed and devastated, she told another teacher what was going on. Her teacher helped Jeppson talk to her parents and told her over and over that what had happened was not her fault.
"I’ve been really lucky to have such a great support system," Jeppson said.
She continues to suffer nightmares and panic attacks, she added, but telling her story and talking with someone who suffered the same abuse has helped her to heal.
"Doug has no power over me anymore, even though he did for a very long time," Jeppson said, sitting by Wallentine in the living room of her home in Woods Cross. "I am a stronger person because of it, and I’m still going to continue on and do all the things I’ve always wanted to do. Doug’s not going to change that."
The Davis School District removed Tate from the classroom and on paid leave Nov. 22, 2016. He resigned on a few days later. He had been hired in 2008.
On the day he was placed on paid leave, Tate sent Jeppson a text "telling her that the abuse had been reported to his employer," according to charging documents.
Tate also sent Jeppson texts saying, "Does anybody know?" and "Please don't say anything," and asked her to "get rid of everything" on her phone, police say.
As part of a plea deal, Tate pleaded guilty to attempted forcible sodomy and attempted object rape, first-degree felonies, and forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. Several charges, including forcible sodomy, object rape and tampering with a witness, were dismissed in exchange for his plea.
He was ordered to serve a sentence of three years to life in prison.
"At the sentencing, he was very apologetic," said Tate's attorney, Susanne Gustin. "He's accepted responsibility for what he did to the victim in this case."
She declined to comment about the additional allegations brought forward by Wallentine.
'We are winners'
What Wallentine doesn’t understand is why Tate wasn’t removed from his position sooner. Other members of her graduating class posted in the Facebook event, remembering Tate as a good teacher but also “creepy” and “different.”
“Shouldn’t you trust your teacher?” Wallentine asked. “We live the rest of our lives healing. It doesn’t end because he’s in prison.”
In 1993, Wallentine said she was contacted by the superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District. He was investigating rumors of inappropriate behavior surrounding Tate, she said he told her. Thinking this was a chance to share her story, Wallentine said she told the superintendent everything that had happened to her years before.
But after thanking her for sharing her story, Wallentine said she never heard from the superintendent again.
"There’s no reason for them not to have terminated Doug and prevented this," she said.
Richardson said he reached out to the Salt Lake City School District as part of his case for any records about such an investigation. School officials told him — and also told the Deseret News — that they don't have any remaining records from that time. Following district policy, all former records are deleted seven years after employees leave the school district.
Richardson also reached out to the superintendent at the time, but he said he didn't remember any investigation into Tate, as he served in that position more than 20 years ago. The former superintendent said the same thing when contacted by the Deseret News.
Another woman also came forward after seeing news reports about Tate, according to Richardson. He said she told police she was in junior high when Tate allegedly began his advances, but she avoided his manipulation and was never sexually assaulted.
Jeppson and Wallentine want to reach out and see if any others were victimized during his more than 30 years teaching high school.16 comments on this story
"We are winners, we’re survivors, and we want to help other people," Wallentine said. "This is our chance to say we care."
If anyone else believes they were victimized, Richardson encourages them to come forward. “Please contact us. Let us look into it,” he said.
He can be reached at the Farmington Police Department, 801-451-5453.
"There’s no way that we’re the only two victims," Jeppson said. "You don’t need to feel hopeless or there’s no one there for you. I promise you someone will be there for you."