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Former proctor mom accused of raping boy pleads no contest to heavily-reduced charges

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PROVO — A 32-year-old Orem proctor mother accused of having sex with a teenager in her care pleaded no contest to heavily-reduced charges Wednesday, as prosecutors cited evidence problems, including the alleged victim is on the run.

Ashley Cloward was charged with forcible sodomy, object rape and two counts of rape, all first-degree felonies, in addition to forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony, but she pleaded no contest to two counts of obstruction of justice, a class A misdemeanor.

Fourth District Judge Lynn Davis appeared amazed at the plea agreement, but prosecutor Donna Kelly said there were "significant evidentiary issues" as there is no physical evidence and both the victim and the primary witness can't be found.

"We were doing the best we could with a bad situation," Kelly said after the hearing. "It's terrible when we feel a crime occurred, but we also feel we can't prove it."

The alleged victim who was living at Cloward's home from October 2008 through January 2009 as her proctor child is now 18 and on the run, prosecutors said. Although the now 18-year-old claims the sexual relationship started out as mutual, he told the court in April that he later became coerced.

Cloward has long proclaimed her innocence. She said after the hearing that she wasn't surprised prosecutors backed off of the case, because "they didn't have any evidence."

"None of it ever happened," she said.

Cloward said the boy she is accused of abusing was suicidal and often became jealous for her attention. He kept his bags packed so he could leave on a whim and one day became angry with her and left. She said he then made up the story about a sexual relationship to justify going on the run.

"I feel like if I had gone to trial, I would have been acquitted, but it's already been two years," she said. "I want to get this behind me."

Proctor care is similar to foster care except that a parent is appointed through a private company that holds a state contract. Davis said he feels that an arrangement that allows teenage boys to be housed with a single woman in her 20s was "incomprehensible."

"The state feels it is in the best interest of justice to proceed in this action and I defer," Davis said. "But if you could figure out who the court needs to contact in the state of Utah relative to this issue, I'm ready to do that."

Cloward and her grandfather agreed with the judge's position. She said she feels that the companies that set up the arrangements only care about money. She said she will no longer make efforts to help struggling youth.

"When I was charged, it totally ruined my life," she said. "It was my passion. It was what I wanted to do with my life and he took that away from me. All I did was try and help him."

Kelly said she feels the state got what it wanted, as Cloward has agreed to undergo an evaluation. Cloward is scheduled to be sentenced April 13.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam