Fugitive wanted on $750,000 warrant for alleged rape of 7-year-old child arrested in St. George

File photo for illustrative purposes only of police on the scene near St. George Boulevard in St. George, Utah, July 5, 2021 | File photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A fugitive wanted on charges of felony sexual assault of a child was arrested Saturday by St. George Police and booked into jail in Washington County where he awaits extradition to Nevada.

File photo for illustrative purposes only of a St. George Police patrol vehicle near Tonaquint Cemetery, St. George News, July 10, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

On Saturday, Stevan Villa Triste, 53, of Elko, Nevada, was arrested on a felony warrant issued Oct. 13 by the Elko Justice Court. Triste faces two class A felony charges, including sexual assault of a child under 14 years of age and lewdness with a child under 14 years of age. 

According to the report, the charges stem from an investigation initiated in July, when Elko Police Detective Michael Marshowski received a referral from the Division of Child and Family Services to follow up on a report involving suspected molestation of a 7-year-old child.  

The child had reportedly been sexually assaulted by the suspect on at least two separate occasions, both of which took place at the beginning of July.

The evidence obtained through the course of the investigation also revealed that both incidents took place in the child’s home, where Triste lured the youngster into one of the bedrooms by giving her candy, a ruse the suspect allegedly used to “manipulate” the child more than once, Marshowski stated in the report. 

During a forensic interview, the child said she ran into her mother’s room and told her what had happened minutes after the second incident took place, the investigator wrote, and detectives also learned the child had disclosed the abuse to several family members prior to the investigation.  

It wasn’t until a neighbor learned of the abuse weeks later that it was reported to authorities, Marshowski noted in the report, which is when the Elko Police Department became involved. 

When interviewed at the end of July, the suspect said he had no idea what the child was talking about, and he denied the allegations, telling detectives the child was “lying,” the report states. 

After further investigation, authorities say they determined that Triste groomed the youngster and then lured her by giving her candy before sexually assaulting the child. 

Elko Police Department in Elko, Nevada, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Google Maps, St. George News

At the end of September, the case was turned over to the Elko County District Attorney’s Office for review. Less than two weeks later, the charges were filed and a warrant was issued for the suspect’s arrest. 

St. George Police Officer Tiffany Mitchell told St. George News that they received a call from an officer with the Elko Police Department who said they received information that Triste was staying at a residence in St. George.

When officers responded to the home, she said, the fugitive was there, and he was taken into custody and transported to the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.

His $750,000 bail was set by the Elko County District Attorney’s Office when the nationwide warrant was filed. 

As to the bail amount, Elko City Police Lt. Mike Palhegyi told St. George News that any crime involving a child is taken very seriously in Nevada, as it should be, he added, which is why the bail on cases such as the one filed against Triste was set so high. He also said in Nevada, class A felony charges are reserved for the most serious crimes, such as murder and kidnapping.  

On Monday, Washington County Attorney Ryan Shaum filed a fugitive complaint to hold the suspect based on the information contained in the report filed in Nevada, a copy of which was sent to St. George News from Elko District Attorney Tyler Ingram. 

Triste will remain in custody in Utah until extradition arrangements are completed.

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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