NEPHI — An ex-employee at a Juab County youth treatment center pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexually abusing five teenage boys at the facility.
Katherine Lynn Estep, 45, of Payson, pleaded guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors to seven counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony, while additional charges were dismissed. Estep was originally charged with five counts of forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony, 10 counts of forcible sexual assault, a second-degree felony, and two class C misdemeanor counts of providing electronic cigarettes to minors.
Estep worked at the Journey Impact Ranch in Mona, where police say she inappropriately touched or engaged in sex acts with the teens. According to charging documents, Estep told two of the teens she would give them "demerits" if they didn't comply.
In exchange, Estep let the teens use her phone and an e-cigarette, or gave them pills and candy, charges state.
Estep admitted to inappropriately touching five boys, ages 16 and 17, seven times, according to court documents.
She faces potential sentences of one to 15 years in prison for each of the seven charges. In exchange for the plea, however, prosecutors will recommend that the sentences run concurrently.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 23 at 10 a.m.
At the time of Estep's arrest, the Utah Department of Human Services had a contract with Journey Impact Ranch and initiated a review of the 16-bed facility. Department spokeswoman Allie Jurkatis said Wednesday that rule violations discovered during the review have since been corrected and the facility is currently in good standing with the state.
"It is our practice to work with facilities in ensuring compliance as they are providing important services that help youth and individuals live successful lives. We appreciate law enforcement for their resolution to one person's regrettable actions," Jurkatis said.