PROVO — A man who police say ordered a woman in a public bathroom to take off her clothes at knifepoint has been found incompetent to face the charges against him and has been released from jail.
The alleged victim's mother said she is outraged by the "nightmarish" situation and fears that his release will allow him to hurt other women.
Following two evaluations by psychiatrists from the Utah Department of Human Services, a judge determined Wednesday that Wayne Ray Leas Jr., 34, is not capable of facing the charges against him and there is little chance he can be restored to sufficient competency, according to court records.
Leas is charged in 4th District Court with two first-degree felonies: aggravated robbery and aggravated sexual assault.
Under Utah law, individuals charged with a crime must be able to understand the allegations against them and assist their attorneys in raising a defense. Defendants found incompetent for trial can receive treatment through the Department of Human Services in hopes of preparing them to proceed in the criminal case.
But while efforts to restore a defendant to competency can go on for years, the chance of preparing Leas to proceed to trial is so low that the case against him has come to a halt after just two months.
The evaluators' findings about what mental illness or impairment Leas experiences are not public. Leas was previously diagnosed with "mental retardation" and received services from the Department of Services for People with Disabilities, according to court filings.
Deputy Utah County attorney Doug Finch said it is heartbreaking to tell crime victims that there is a risk someone else could be hurt.
"I'm not happy with their mandate to use the least restrictive method to keep the communities safe from individuals like this," he said.
According to Finch, Leas received extensive services from the Department of Services for People with Disabilities in the past, ultimately resulting in him being appointed a guardian. It was through that guardianship that Leas went to live in Montana for a time, Finch said.
He had returned to Utah to visit family when he allegedly assaulted the woman.
Finch called evaluators' findings "very definitive" regarding Leas' current mental state. Now, he said Leas will return to Montana with his guardian. As he goes, Finch has informed law enforcement there of the situation.
The criminal charges against Leas have not been dismissed, Finch noted, in case there is ever a chance to proceed with the case in the future.
Police say Leas confronted the woman in a public bathroom at the trailhead in Rock Canyon Park with a large, curved knife and demanded her cash. When the woman told Leas she did not have any cash, Leas demanded she take her clothes off, the charges state.
The woman managed to unlock her cellphone and dial her friend, who was already hiking on the trail, as she reached into her backpack to show Leas that she didn't have any money.
The woman then left the line open and repeated everything Leas told her so that her friend could hear, sending him running back to find her, according to police.
Before the friend arrived, prosecutors said Leas "began to forcefully disrobe" the woman and she "struggled with defendant while defendant held the knife in front of victim's face, pressed the knife against victim's neck, and made many other threatening motions with the knife to intimidate victim," charging documents state.
Leas fled when the woman's friend arrived and was later arrested after two BYU police officers recognized him as a person they had questioned the night before when he was found "hiding in the bushes near the heat plant" on campus.
The mother of the victim, who asked not to be named to preserve her daughter's privacy, decried the fact that Leas' competency finding allowed him to go free. The mother also shared her fears that he will be able to harm someone else in the future.
"The nightmarish characters we see in thrillers and horror movies are in reality allowed to live among us to do as they will without so much as a slap on the wrist," the mother said.
She went on to emphasize her concern that Leas was looking for another victim before he was arrested.
"What are we to do? How are we to protect our families and community? This is a scary situation we find ourselves in this week with a deranged attempted rapist on the streets in our neighborhoods ready to strike again and maybe this time no one will be there to rescue his victim. It's a scary appalling reality," the mother said.
Leas' family also issued a statement following the man's release calling the reunion "bittersweet" and saying they wish the terrifying encounter had never occurred.13 comments on this story
"The family wants the victim to know that we sympathize with her completely and we can make sure this never happens again. Through the counseling and treatment programs we pray that he can get the help he needs, so that he can understand the gravity of his choices and the people he affected and hurt," the statement said.
It continued, addressing the woman, "She is in our prayers, and we pray that this does not affect her in the long term, and that she can forgive him at some point."
Those who have experienced sexual abuse or assault can be connected to trained advocates through Utah's statewide 24-hour Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 888-421-1100.
Contributing: Andrew Adams