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A 4TH DEFENDANT CHARGED WITH ABUSING RETARDED GIRL

A fourth Utah County man faces charges of rape and sodomy of a mildly retarded 14-year-girl, but Utah County prosecutors deny that the defendants were part of a sex ring.

The latest to be charged is Jack W. Johnston, 55. Johnston, a former Utah County resident now living in Moroni, is charged with rape of a child and sodomy of a child, first-degree felonies, and sexual abuse of a child, a second-degree felony, in connection with incidents alleged to have occurred July 17, 1989, in American Fork when the girl was 13.Deputy Utah County Attorney Kay Bryson said the county attorney's office is investigating other Utah County men for possible sex crimes against the girl, who recently turned 14.

"It's not really a sex ring, but people are reporting this kind of thing," Bryson said. "At this point, I'm not prepared to say it's a ring, but we've got a number of others that we're still investigating."

He said Johnston and Patrick Burt, 25, Provo, have no connection with two other defendants in the case. Burt faces charges of rape of a child and sodomy on a child in connection with incidents occurring March 1 in Springville.

The charges of abuse of the girl began as a result of an investigation that was sparked in April after a Draper policeman reported witnessing Maurice C. Smith, 61, Pleasant Grove, engaged in sex acts with the girl in a van parked off a frontage road near Point of the Mountain.

Like Johnston and Burt, Smith faces charges of rape and sodomy of a child.

A third defendant in the case, William O. Hayes, 64, American Fork, faces charges of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony, and attempted rape of a child, a second-degree felony.

Hayes is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation prompted by a suicide threat he reportedly made April 25 at the American Fork Boat Harbor - less than a week after he was charged. The defendant was arrested after a man held police, who were responding to the suicide threat, at gunpoint for 45 minutes.