ST. GEORGE — A Washington City man appeared in court for a status hearing on a first-degree forcible sodomy charge that will now be decided by a jury, one of two cases the man is being tried for.
Ivan Daniel Zaragoza, 25, of Washington City, appeared in 5th District Court for a status hearing on first-degree felony sodomy charge and a three-day jury trial was scheduled to take place Dec. 11-13, before District Judge Wilcox, with the first pretrial conference to take place next week.
The charge stems from an incident reported Oct. 14, 2017, when detectives were called to investigate a reported rape at a residence on Indian Hills Drive, according to a probable cause statement filed by St. George Police in support of the arrest.
A 27-year-old woman told investigators that she had been invited to the party by Zaragoza, whom she spent time with throughout the night since he was the only person she knew at the party. The woman also told police she had taken two shots of alcohol and had begun drinking a hard lemonade before excusing herself to go to the restroom, leaving her drink unattended.
“She returned to the drink and finished it. She could not remember what happened after that. She suspected Ivan (Zaragoza) had put a drug in her drink,” according to the statement.
The next memory the woman had was waking up in the hospital as a sexual assault kit was being performed on her. The woman was also missing a pair of underwear and Spanx that she had been wearing at the party, according to the statement. A nurse at the hospital documented that the woman was anxious, hallucinating, dry heaving and sobbing.
Police interviewed several witnesses at the party who described the woman as “not in good shape” and that she was throwing up, unable to walk and not alert.
One witness told police the bathroom had been occupied for 20 minutes, causing a line to form at the door. And when no one would answer the locked bathroom door, the man said he pounded on it until it opened.
Several witnesses said they saw the woman on the ground as Zaragoza got off her and buttoned his pants, according to the statement. The man who opened the door said the woman’s eyes were rolling back and she was foaming at the mouth. He told police he suspected she had been drugged. Zaragoza was kicked out of the party and the woman was taken to the hospital.
During an interview with detectives, Zaragoza said that after he and the woman had a few shots together at the party, he went to the bathroom and she followed him in there. He said they had been in the bathroom for about three to four minutes “making out” when people began pounding on the door and he opened it.
Zaragoza allegedly told police the woman was standing on her own when he went to the door and spoke to people outside for about thirty seconds, and then, “the woman fell into the bathtub and became unable to walk or move under her own power, saying she had become drunk,” the detective wrote in the statement. The defendant told police he attempted to help the woman up and take her home, but he was kicked out of the party before he could do so.
After the detective advised Zaragoza of the rape kit and the witnesses, he said he wanted an attorney and he was arrested and taken to jail. Shortly thereafter, the Washington County Attorney’s Office filed an information in 5th District Court accusing Zaragoza of first-degree felony forcible sodomy and the defendant was released on a $25,000 bail pending trial.
A trial for a previous case involving Zaragoza is also scheduled in December and involves two charges — first-degree felony rape and tampering with a witness, a third-degree felony. The charges stem from an incident reported in July 2016 when officers were dispatched to Dixie Regional Medical Center after an 18-year-old woman arrived at the hospital reporting she was raped by the defendant during a birthday party at a hotel.
At the hospital, the woman was examined and potential evidence was collected and sent to the Utah State Crime Lab for analysis.
During the interview, the woman told police that Zaragoza attended the party with his girlfriend and the three started drinking in the hotel room until later that night when the woman fell asleep on the couch, while the defendant and his girlfriend were in the bed.
The woman awoke some time later to find she was partially disrobed with the defendant on top of her performing sexual acts, at which point she yelled at him to get off of her, which he eventually did before leaving the motel room with his girlfriend.
The woman was taken to the hospital by a family member and the incident was reported to police.
During an interview with detectives, Zaragoza denied the allegations and said he never had sexual contact with the woman, telling officers the woman was intoxicated and when he returned to the hotel room she was “passed out on the couch,” the officer noted in the statement. Later, he said the woman yelled at both he and his girlfriend to get out of the room, so they left.
The defendant also provided a buccal swab to the police that was sent to the crime lab for DNA testing.
A witness corroborated the defendant’s account initially, but months later changed their story during a subsequent interview with police, saying Zaragoza went over what they (the witness) were to tell police if questioned. The witness also said Zaragoza threatened them by saying they would get in trouble for underage drinking if they did not follow his instructions.
After more than a year, the DNA results from both the rape kit and the buccal swab collected from the defendant allegedly showed a mixture of both Zaragoza’s and the woman’s DNA, after which a $25,000 warrant was issued for the defendant’s arrest, which took place Aug. 21, 2018, and he was released the following day after posting bond.
The case is also scheduled for a three-day jury trial before District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox that will run from Dec. 11-13. After the trial was scheduled, Judge Wilcox asked the state if the case would likely go to trial.
Prosecutor Ryan Shaum replied by saying he is “confident the (rape) case will go to trial on that day.” And since both cases cannot be heard at the same time, the 2017 sodomy case will likely trail the rape case — should both sides fail to reach a settlement in either case.
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