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Arizona police find Utahn who faces abuse charges

Officials say he fled state after woman reported incidents

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PROVO — A man who police say tied up, then sexually abused two young girls has been picked up in Arizona by police on a $100,000 cash-only warrant.

The warrant, signed Friday by a 4th District judge, was for Manuel DeJesus Armenta, 26, who is charged with two counts of child kidnapping and two counts of aggravated sex abuse of a child.

The Utah County Attorney's Office confirmed Tuesday that Armenta, who had been living at the home when the alleged abuse occurred, had been arrested and was in the process of being transported to Utah.

Payson police officer Lance Smith said he was contacted last week by a woman who reported that her 10-year-old daughter and 5-year-old niece had been sexually abused by Armenta, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in support of arrest in 4th District Court.

Smith wrote that through further investigation, he learned Armenta had quit his job and packed his personal belongings to "flee the country," because he had "made a mistake," according to the affidavit.

In later interviews with the children, the 10-year-old girl told police that in January or February the suspect tied her hands with a white shoelace, then touched her genital area, according to the affidavit.

The 10-year-old girl also said that she witnessed the same thing being done to her cousin, except the man also covered the young girl's mouth with his hand while he touched her genital area, the affidavit said.

The girl told police that when she saw the alleged abuse, the man then threatened her and the younger girl that if they told anyone "he would harm them and their parents," according to the affidavit.

However, in an interview with the 5-year-old girl, she didn't say anything about being a victim or being abused, according to the affidavit.

"Most kids don't make (this kind of) stuff up," said prosecutor Mariane O'Bryant. "Most young children don't fantasize about being abused. It's not (a thought) that naturally occurs to them."

O'Bryant said she was still waiting to review the interviews in this case.

E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com