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Utah man accused of date raping 4 women found dead of apparent suicide

10-24-2012 Utah:

Four separate times, prosecutors say, Gregory Peterson lured women under the pretext of a movie or lunch -- and sexually assaulted them.

He kept one captive in his mother's house for several days, they said

He threatened to report another, whose visa had expired, for deportation, charging documents alleged.

And in each case, authorities said, he forced the women to engage in sex acts by pointing to guns he possessed.

For those alleged crimes, Peterson was awaiting trial on more than two dozen charges.

But the criminal case ended Tuesday when the Utah man -- who'd bailed out of jail just four days earlier -- was found in his cabin, dead of an apparent suicide.

"This has been a tragedy of a case from the beginning," said Wasatch County Attorney Scott Sweat.

A bail bondsman found Peterson in his Wasatch County cabin Tuesday evening while checking on him because his ankle monitor signal was getting weak, Sheriff Todd Bonner said.

It's unclear whether he left a note, Bonner said.

Deputies noticed "activity" with his monitor early in the afternoon as Peterson walked around outside his cabin, Bonner said. Peterson had a number of weapons inside his home, he added.

Cara Tangaro, one of two lawyers representing Peterson, said she was "completely 100% shocked by the news."

"If we thought he had been suicidal at all, we obviously would have taken that into account, or tried to get him help, or talk him out of bailing out," she said early Wednesday morning.

"We actually felt we had a trial-able case," she added. "We were very much looking forward to getting his side of the story out there and having our day in court."

The Salt Lake County district attorney charged Peterson, 37, in July with a range of crimes including rape, assault, and forcible sexual abuse against the four women. After spending three months in jail, he was released Friday on a $2 million bail.

The women detailed the alleged sexual abuse in a July charging document.

The first woman, identified only as S.M., described meeting Peterson at a church event in March 2011 and agreeing to go to a movie with him. Instead of going to the theater, she said, he drove her to his cabin, assaulting her both on the drive and during the night.

The woman said she was scared because there were weapons both in the car and in his cabin. Peterson drove her back to her car the next morning, she said.

The other women said they met Peterson online.

One said Peterson asked her to dinner in July 2011 but instead drove her to his cabin, sexually assaulting her on the way and through the night. She said he talked about her expired visa and threatened to deport her.

Peterson then drove her to his mother's house and kept her there for three days before driving her home and assaulting her again, she said.

The other assaults allegedly occurred at the women's homes in December 2011 and last April when he arrived to take them to lunch, they said.

"He maintained his innocence to us from Day 1 and never wavered from that," Tangaro, his attorney said.

Asked whether the apparent suicide indicates Peterson was guilty of the crimes, Sweat -- the Wasatch County attorney -- said: "I think everyone's going to have to make up their minds on that." ..Source.. by CNN Wire Staff


Tea party activist commits suicide; struggled after sex case arrest


Tea party activist Gregory Peterson once hosted some of Utah's biggest Republican names at a barbecue at his Wasatch County cabin. Among them were U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, Gov. Gary Herbert and Mia Love, the up-and-coming mayor of Saratoga Springs who is locked in a dead heat to unseat six-term Congressman Jim Matheson.

Peterson was a regular at GOP functions as the creator of the Rocky Mountain Conservatives group. He held fundraisers and even organized a debate between two GOP candidates for Utah attorney general.

It all came crashing down in July, when he was charged with sexually assaulting women at the cabin. On Tuesday, he was found dead there in what authorities called an apparent suicide.

Cara Tangaro, one of his attorneys, said she had spent many hours with Peterson on his criminal case.

"He's always maintained his innocence, and we felt like he was excited to be out and to be able to work with us on preparing his case," she said. "Quite frankly, this is the last thing we expected."

Peterson pleaded not guilty to 23 felony charges, including assault, rape and kidnapping. In August, four women from Salt Lake City and one from Wasatch County testified at a preliminary hearing that he had sexually assaulted them.

Some said they had met him on Mormon dating websites and at church functions.

Peterson was jailed after his arrest in July and held until posting $2 million bail on Oct. 19. He was due back in court on Nov. 2.

Tangaro said he had been elated on his first night out of jail.

But just four days later, two bail bond agents were dispatched to the cabin to check on him because his ankle monitor was not responding. Wasatch County Chief Deputy Jared Rigby confirmed that Peterson was found with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Peterson, a certified public accountant and the owner of Peterson Wealth Management, had been a fixture at Utah Republican gatherings.

Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright declined to comment Wednesday on his death, saying Peterson had no official role with the party.

Lynn Robertson, a victim's advocate for Wasatch County, said she notified one of the alleged victims of his death.

"We were all kind of speechless at that point. It just happened so quickly," Robertson said.

Tangaro said Peterson had a master's degree, a good job and good reputation, but his ties to the Republican Party seemed to fuel media coverage of his arrest. He worried he might not be able to overcome that coverage, she said.

"As his legal team, we were very much looking forward to putting this case in front of a jury, and when a jury got to hear his side of the story, we definitely felt like an acquittal was a possibility," she said. "We're frustrated that this is how it ended, and we're sad that this is how it ended. I don't know why Greg did what he did. Only he knows that." ..Source.. by

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