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First arrest made in Utah County ritualistic child sex abuse investigation

Posted at 11:13 AM, Sep 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-03 02:16:06-04

UTAH COUNTY, Utah — The Utah County Sheriff's Office has arrested a suspect in an ongoing ritualistic child sex abuse investigation.

Former therapist David Hamblin, 68, was previously charged with 18 counts of sexual assault. He was taken into custody Wednesday morning and booked on the following:

  • 3 counts of sodomy on a child
  • Rape of a child
  • 2 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child
  • Lewdness involving a child

According to records obtained by FOX 13 News, Hamblin had previously confessed to sexually assaulting at least one of his female family members in an undercover phone recording.

"I am sorry for raping you," Hamblin reportedly said. "I'm not saying it isn't true... I'm not saying somebody in my body didn't do it."

The Utah County Attorney’s Office dropped all charges.

Hamblin lost his license and was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In an interview with FOX 13 News in April, alleged victim Brett Bluth described a long period of abuse and grooming by Hamblin as he tried to “heal” Bluth of his homosexuality.

Bluth expressed optimism that charges would be filed against Hamblin.

“I do think it will be different (this time),” Bluth said. “Hypnosis was a big part of (my treatment). He told me from the very beginning, that that was his main technique."

Bluth said Hamblin spent hours each week trying to convince Bluth that he was abused during his childhood and that he has multiple personality disorder "due to systemic ritual and sexual abuse."

"He had a yellow notepad with lined papers of notes, and he would read them back to me saying, 'This is what one of your personalities said while you were under hypnosis,'" Bluth said. "I told him I was never under... (but) I went home from those sessions thinking I had hurt other people."

Bluth said Hamblin hinted at the need for his patient to perform sex acts for several months in order to be cured of his homosexuality.

"He started suggesting that the semen of a righteous man would then undo the damage that the semen of the unrighteous men had done," Bluth described. "He put his arm on the back of the sofa, and he put his other arm back, and he waited — and we sat there in silence... He put his hands on my head and gave me a Mormon priesthood and blessed the sperm."

Years later, Bluth confronted Hamblin and told him to turn over his license to the state.

Although Hamblin is no longer a licensed therapist, he often conducts therapeutic "peyote ceremonies" through his church and has advocated for its use.

"I think the emotional abuse was far more damaging than the sexual abuse," Bluth said.

RELATED: Religious liberty rally at State Capitol calls on Utah to end ban on peyote use in sacrament

The sheriff's office announced an investigation into ritualistic sexual abuse on May 31, 2022. The investigation was opened the previous year after the department learned of multiple victims reporting similar incidents that took place in Utah County, Juab County, and Sanpete County between 1990-2010.

More than 130 potential victims came forward, with officials describing the majority of those tips as “credible.”

Sgt. Spencer Cannon said he wasn't sure how many of the victims mentioned Hamblin but that a new female victim came forward in April 2022 to describe being sexually assaulted by Hamblin between the ages of six and thirteen.

According to booking documents, in at least one instance, other children were present during the abuse.

In another instance, the female victim described being ordered to perform sex acts on an "adult female."

Cannon confirmed the "adult female" is not considered a victim and declined to comment on whether she is considered a suspect.

He stated UCSO anticipates there will be additional arrests.

On June 1, 2022, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt held a press conference, announcing himself as a subject of the investigation and describing his link to Hamblin.

"This therapist was my elder's quorum president in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was my neighbor. I had a family connection. When his wife learned of whatever he was doing, she divorced him, and I testified at that divorce hearing. I'm well aware of who the therapist is, and I'm well aware of many of the players here," Leavitt said. "I had a friendship with he and his wife to the extent that I went into court and testified on behalf of his wife to protect his children from him."

Leavitt said he felt the investigation was "politically motivated."

“There is no organized ring of abuse. It was debunked more than 10 years ago,” Leavitt said. “The allegations that are there are so outlandish and so crazy that – yeah, they’re just not true... That this all occurs less than one week before ballots drop in an election in which I am participating causes me tremendous concern.”

In August, a judge listened to testimony from Hamblin and his attorney, asking for his record to be expunged. The Utah County Attorney's Office and Utah Attorney General's Office opposed the expungement due to the active investigation.

At that hearing, another prosecutor with the Utah County Attorney's Office contradicted Leavitt, arguing the case was not "politically motivated."

This time around, the Utah County Attorney's Office will not handle the prosecution of Hamblin. Instead, Juab County Attorney Ryan Peters was appointed as a special prosecutor.

UCSO declined to comment on whether Leavitt's comments disqualified his office from prosecuting the case.