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4-H leader in Tooele is charged with child sex abuse

A leader with the Utah 4-H Club has been arrested in Tooele and charged in Third District Court with molesting juveniles in the club during sleepovers

Curtis Reed Crittenden, 32, was charged in 3rd District Court with three counts of aggravated sex abuse of a child and three counts of forcible sex abuse.

Crittenden is accused of touching the genitals of four Tooele children as they were sleeping, said Deputy Tooele County Attorney Gary Searle. The children were between the ages of 12 and 14, he said.

In addition, information has been turned over to investigators in Cache County and Wendover, Nev., because of potential other victims, he said.

Crittenden told police he had "a problem" that began during his LDS church mission, according to an arrest warrant. After getting home from his mission, Crittenden says, he sexually abused two teenaged boys in Logan while he was a student at Utah State University and then sexually abused a 16-year-old boy he visited in Wendover, according to the warrant.

Investigators were also seeking to interview two other boys in Tooele who may have been abused, bringing the number of possible Tooele victims to six, according to the warrant. Three of them were 13 years old or younger, the warrant stated.

Police began investigating Crittenden June 29, a day after a sleepover at his house. A boy at that sleepover told his parents the next morning what had happened and they immediately contacted police, Searle said.

The abuse of the other victims allegedly occurred during June.

Crittenden made an initial court appearance Tuesday to be officially informed of the charges against him.

Kevin Kesler, director of Utah 4-H and the youth programs at USU, the state headquarters for 4-H, said Crittenden was the extension educator for 4-H in Tooele, in charge of coordinating all the 4-H activities in the area and training volunteers. He was put on leave when the allegations arose.

It is strictly against 4-H policy to have youth members sleep over at a volunteer or leader's house with no other chaperons, Kesler said. There is always one adult per 10 children, but never a single adult alone with juveniles, he said.

"We want to provide a safe atmosphere for kids. Youth safety is our number one concern," he said. "4-H is 100 years old. This is the first time I know of that we've had to deal with anything like this in Utah. We're sick. We're appalled. We're shocked as to what's coming out."

All volunteers and leaders are put through criminal background checks, Kesler said. The 4-H office will also look into policies and procedures.

"We want to make sure if there are any leaks in the system, we can find out about them and get them fixed," he said.

Counseling is being provided by 4-H to the victims and their families, Kesler said. Any other parents who might have concerns about what's happening at 4-H are encouraged to contact their local office or the state headquarters in Logan, he said.

The 4-H club has 136,000 youth members, including 677 in Tooele County. The program takes people from 9 to 19 years old.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com