SWAT called out during arrest of suspect facing first-degree rape

ST. GEORGE — A man accused of sexually assaulting a relative was arrested in St. George on Sunday following an investigation set in motion when officers were dispatched to St. George Regional Hospital to conduct an interview.

2019 file photo of St. George Police officers for illustrative purposes only, St. George, Utah, July 22, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

According to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest, officers were dispatched to the hospital Sunday night on a report of an alleged rape that took place at a residence on West 360 North in St. George earlier that same day.

During the interview, the young woman in her 20s reportedly told authorities she was drinking at a friend’s house the night before and became intoxicated, so she called a family member, later identified as 39-year-old Michael Nolasco, to give her a ride home.

Nolasco arrived and picked her up, she told police, adding that when she arrived back home, she “blacked out,” and when she woke up between 5-6 a.m., the suspect was raping her.

Another family member confronted the suspect while the young woman collected her clothing and left the residence. She then returned to the friend’s house from the night before.

Shortly before 11:40 a.m. on Sunday, Nolasco started texting the woman, messages that were later viewed by police.

The message thread allegedly revealed a text from the suspect to the woman where he stated he went in and “checked” on her while she was still sleeping at the residence and then asked about her well-being. When the woman sent a text referring to the sexual assault, Nolasco did not send any texts denying it. The officer’s report refers to a screenshot of the text messages that was subsequently turned over to police.

An incident command was set up to assist officers and detectives during the investigation. Officers spoke to several witnesses at the incident command, including one witness who reported they were visiting the residence at the time and had spoken to a family member after the incident who said they had walked in on the suspect raping the young woman at approximately 5 a.m.

Through the course of the investigation, officers also learned that Nolasco had allegedly threatened to kill the family member who witnessed the incident if she went to authorities and reported the rape.

Officers spoke to the family member and were provided a similar account as that of the young woman. They were told by the family member that shortly before 5 a.m., she realized Nolasco was no longer in his room. She went in search of the suspect, which is when she heard one of the bedroom doors slam shut, followed by the bathroom door seconds later. When confronted, Nolasco allegedly told her that  “nothing had happened.”

According to the report, Nolasco’s statement was called into question when his clothing was found on the floor near where the young woman was sleeping. The witness woke the young woman, at which point she gathered her things and left the house.

When asked if Nolasco made any threats toward her, the witness “hesitated for a few moments before responding ‘no’,” the officer wrote. However, she stated there had been prior incidents of abuse between the suspect and the young woman.

2020 file photo of the St. George SWAT team for illustrative purposes only, St. George, Utah, Dec. 9, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Officers responded to Nolasco’s residence. The St. George SWAT team was also deployed and staged in the area as a safety precaution, as initial reports indicated there may be weapons inside of the residence, St. George Police Officer Tiffany Mitchell said.

Officers found Nolasco and transported him to the St. George Police Department for questioning.

In the meantime, Washington County prosecutor Zachary Weiland also responded to the scene to assist detectives as the scene was being processed and the evidence collected.

At the police station, the suspect told officers he did not want to provide a statement, and he was transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility and booked on first-degree felony rape and misdemeanor sexual battery.

The officer requested Nolasco be held without bail due to “clear and convincing evidence” he would constitute a substantial danger to any other individual or to the community or is likely to to flee the jurisdiction of the court if released on bail. The order was signed by District Judge John J. Walton, and the suspect remains in custody.

The charges were submitted to the Washington County Attorney’s Office and are currently under review.

Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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