WEST JORDAN — What an avid runner intended as a random act of kindness in March turned into 45 minutes of torture as she gasped for air while a teenager pushed her face into the dirt and sexually assaulted her.
The 50-year-old mother and her family still are trying to heal from the trauma, she said Tuesday in court, just before her attacker was sentenced.
"It feels like having a nuclear bomb dropped on us and now we are left to pick up the pieces and somehow move on and find a new normal," the woman said.
Rainier Craig Peterson, 16, was sentenced Tuesday to remain in a secure juvenile detention facility until a later date when he is expected to be sent to prison. Third District Juvenile Judge Renee Jimenez also ordered the Midvale teenager to sex offender treatment for one component of the attack.
"I believe the woman who crawled away from you beaten and abused is not a victim, but a survivor," the judge told Peterson. "I have hope for her. I have hope for you, too."
Peterson, who was 15 at the time of the attack, admitted in juvenile court last month to asking to use the woman's phone and then raping her on March 19. He pleaded guilty to aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony. The woman had been jogging along a trail in Dimple Dell Regional Park near 10100 South and 250 East.
The woman said Tuesday in court she feared during the assault that her family would find her dead in a ditch, and held up a photo of swollen, deep-purple bruises surrounding her eyes taken after police found her.
She said she was nearly strangled three times and momentarily lost consciousness, spitting out weeds and dirt as he raped her dragged her away from the trail.
The woman urged Peterson to try to understand the severity of his actions by imagining the same thing happening to his own mother, but said she forgives him.
"Today I want you to know that I do not hate you and do not wish you any harm," she said. The Deseret News generally does not identify victims of sexual crimes.
As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors designed to help him receive treatment before entering the prison system, the teen last month pleaded guilty as an adult to aggravated sexual assault, a first-degree felony, but admitted to the kidnapping charge in the juvenile system. In exchange for his guilty pleas, remaining felony charges were dropped, including attempted aggravated murder.
On Tuesday, Peterson sat with his elbows on his knees and hung his head during the hearing. He did not address the judge, but apologized in a statement read by his defense attorney, William Russell.
"I am so sorry for all the hurt that I've caused the victim and her family. I'm also sorry for putting my family through this," Russell read, adding that Peterson appreciates his family's support.
The woman's husband recalled receiving a phone call from his wife on the sunny day in March, saying she was so hysterical she could hardly speak. When he arrived at the hospital, friends and hospital employees warned him it was really bad.
"This should never have happened to anyone, least of all my wonderful wife," he said, urging the judge to issue the heftiest sentence possible.
He and his wife said the teen's parents, parole officers and school employees should have done more to prevent such a tragedy because Peterson has a prior juvenile criminal history. His record includes three misdemeanor assault cases from 2017.
But Jimenez disagreed, saying it was not foreseeable that Peterson would later carry out "the most horrendous of crimes."
Probation officers believed the teen was doing well in the months before the attack, and he had received a number of services through the court since 2016, when he first faced juvenile charges, said probation officer Todd Miller.
But the teen revealed ahead of sentencing he had grown tired of "numerous altercations" in his home and had begun staying at a friend's house two weeks before he raped the woman, skipping class during that period of time to meet up with others in parks and do drugs, Miller said.
On Tuesday, the woman's husband read a statement written by one of their children, who wrote that the mother's "beautiful heart" was on display when she stopped to lend her phone to the teen she believed needed help. She was back to her love of running just few weeks after the attack, the letter added.
"You may have hurt her," her husband said, reading from the note, "but you didn't break her spirit."10 comments on this story
Prosecutors requested a judge wait to sentence Peterson for the sex assault conviction until his release from a juvenile detention center, recommending a prison term of at least 10 years and up to life. The maximum time defendants can spend in the juvenile system is until they turn 21, but Peterson could be sentenced earlier if he is released on parole or if he is convicted of another crime.
Those who have experienced sexual abuse or assault can get assistance from Utah's statewide 24-hour Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 888-421-1100.