Many Lehi residents expressed relief Friday over news that the Utah attorney general's office is dropping a long-term investigation of alleged widespread child sexual abuse in a Lehi neighborhood.
Others, who believe that their children were abused, expressed frustration and anger at the announcement this week."I think it's sad for the kids out there who have been involved in any kind of a sexual-abuse case," said a mother of several children who she believes were abused. "What are they going to do? Why would they ever tell about the abuse if nothing is ever done - if people can get by with the abuse.
"As bad as it (the abuse) is, the kids will continue allowing the abuse rather than go through the trauma of the system."
Outgoing Attorney General David Wilkinson, who announced the end of the state's investigation, said that unless new evidence surfaces, there will be no new charges filed.
"I am pleased with the decision of the attorney general to drop the investigation," said Rep. Christine Fox, R-Lehi. "I am happy that the attorney general, after evaluating the evidence, has made the decision.
"The people in Lehi who have been under investigation have lived with the threat of prosecution over their heads for over three years. I am so happy that finally they can begin to rebuild their lives."
The controversial probe began nearly three years ago.
Following a highly publicized and heated trial, Allan B. Hadfield was convicted by an eight-member jury on Dec. 20 of sexually abusing and sodomizing his 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter.
Hadfield's charges stemmed from a lengthy investigation by the Utah County attorney's office and state attorney general, involving accusations by numerous children in Hadfield's neighborhood against more than a dozen adults.
Despite his conviction, residents rallied around Hadfield, who has never admitted any wrongdoing. Hundreds of residents attended events to raise money for Hadfield's defense fund. Yet, negative publicity about the community persisted as the attorney general's office continued its probe into other alleged cases.
Some psychologists reported evidence of a so-called "sex-abuse" ring, involving several children and adults at the same time.
But many in Hadfield's neighborhood who believed they had been accused, in turn said that social worker Barbara Snow had "brainwashed" the children into maintaining they were sexually abused. Snow, then with the Intermountain Sex Abuse Treatment Center, counseled many of the children who had reportedly been abused.
"From the beginning of the investigation, the position of the attorney general's office has been that cases would be prosecuted only if prosecutors believed that the evidence would be sufficient to support a finding by a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the abuse occurred," Wilkinson said.
"The only case that met that high charging standard as the investigation developed was the one involving Allan B. Hadfield, which was prosecuted to a conviction last December," he said.
Dr. Paul L. Whitehead, a Salt Lake child psychiatrist who has treated many cases of child sexual abuse, agrees that the Lehi case is a very complex situation.> "But in working with children from Lehi and elsewhere in the state, I feel that the absence of prosecution doesn't necessarily mean that nothing happened. However, legally we must presume innocence until someone is proven guilty. But when they are proven guilty, we should presume they are guilty, which wasn't completely the case with Allan B. Hadfield."
Whitehead said that because these trials are so difficult to go through, as evidence by reactions by the Hadfield children (who became physically ill when testifying against their father during the trial), I am pleased that the state requires a very high standard of proof before they embark on a full-scale trial."
Chief prosecutor Robert N. Parrish said the fact that the attorney general's office wasn't able to find corroborative evidence in the Lehi case doesn't mean that a prosecution can never be brought solely on the uncorroborated testimony of a child.
"In fact, with most child-abuse cases, that is all that a prosecutor has to go on," he said. "However, due to the many complexities of this investigation, including the fact that many of the children who originally disclosed abuse were not allowed to talk to us, if physical evidence ever did exist, it was gone long before our office became involved in the investigation."
Prosecutors said that the troubling issue for the attorney general's office was not in determining that sexual abuse of some children had occurred, but rather in proving beyond any reasonable doubt who committed the abuse."
Parrish said the state may never know the truth of what did or didn't occur in Lehi "other than those who were there, or not there, as the case may be."