Update: In late January 2015, we reported about what may be the single most disturbing series of sexual-assault allegations to ever appear in this space. Grand Junction's Larry Church was accused of victimizing nine people between the ages of six and 21, seven of them minors. Our previous coverage has been folded into this post.
Now, Church has been sentenced for his crimes, with a judge imposing a penalty of nearly a century behind bars. Yet under the circumstances, this punishment almost seems modest.
Note: The details of the case may disturb some readers.
As we noted last year, the Mesa County Sheriff's Office provided us with Church's arrest warrant — and as regular visitors to Westword's news vertical know, we often include police documents in posts about crimes, in order to provide even more information should readers want to dig deeper into a story.
We're not doing so in Church's case because while key names have been redacted, addresses and other identifiers that remain would have made it possible to identify the victims, many of them family members. But the following account is drawn from the affidavit.
On December 5, 2014, according to the report, an MCSO deputy received a call from the mother of a 21-year-old woman who said she'd been sexually assaulted by Church.
During a subsequent interview, the woman said she'd visited Church's home and that after dinner, the two of them began drinking together — and drinking heavily. She guessed that each of them took between ten and twelve shots of Burnett's Vodka, and she was pretty sure Church had started before her arrival.
In addition, the two of them shared a couple bowls of marijuana.
By nine o'clock on the evening in question, the woman said she started to feel ill and laid down on one of the two couches in the living room with the intention of falling asleep as a movie played in the background. Her one-year-old son slept nearby.
At some point afterward, the woman awoke to discover that someone was touching her in a sexual manner, the affidavit continues — and that's when she realized her pants had been lowered. She also heard grunting noises and felt facial hair on her buttocks and the sensation of being licked. A moment later, she says,Church was about to start anally raping her.
Before she was penetrated, the child awoke and called out for the woman, the document says. She hurriedly stood and pulled up her pants, and when she looked back at Church, he was lying back on the couch, pretending to be asleep.
No surprise that these actions and others left the woman feeling "really freaked out," the affidavit says, and she soon took her son and left — and later told her mom what had happened.
This account triggered a series of interviews with other victims at locations such as the Western Slope Center for Children and the Montrose County Sheriff substation in Nucla.
Seemingly each female with whom investigators spoke had a story of Church groping and/or violating them in extremely perverse ways. Yet somehow, the majority of the victims had kept the offenses to themselves over a span of years, with the notable exception of a six-year-old. She had told others about something "gross" being done to her by Church, but no one believed her at the time.
Church was subsequently arrested on January 28, 2015 — his 53rd birthday — and hit with 26 charges related to sexual assault.
In the end, Church was reportedly found guilty of 22 counts. His sentence: 96 years.
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Here's a larger look at Church's mug shot.