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Attack victim sues Utah County, work-release program

Attack victim sues Utah County, work-release program

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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PROVO — A Utah Valley University student who was raped and beaten nearly to death along the Provo River Trail has filed a complaint against the Utah County Sheriff's Office and the work-release program that allowed the man convicted of attacking her to participate.

In the complaint filed in 4th District Court on Monday, the now 20-year-old woman accuses Universal Industrial Sales Inc., Intermountain Staffing, Utah County and the Utah County Sheriff's Office of negligence for allowing Shawn Michael Leonard, 35, to participate in a jail work-release program.

"Shawn Michael Leonard was improperly screened for approval within the jail industries program based on his extensive criminal history, which included a prior sentence to the Utah State Prison," the complaint states.

Despite his record, which prosecutors later said included six stints in prison, Leonard was authorized to take part in the jail industries program. Through the program, Intermountain Staffing placed him at Universal Industrial Sales, according to the complaint.

The woman alleges that neither Intermountain Staffing nor Universal Industrial Sales provided any screening or supervision to Leonard.

On June 9, 2010, Leonard walked away from the work-release program, approached the then 19-year-old UVU student near the Provo River Trail and asked her for money. She testified in court that when she said she didn't have any to give, he told her to sit and turn away.

The next thing the woman felt was a string around her neck strangling her. She said she believes she may have blacked out for up to three hours. During that time, prosecutors say Leonard smashed the woman's face with a rock and cement cinder block.

According to court testimony, the victim came to and found her head covered with blood and her clothing pulled around her ankles. She had only enough power to crawl back to the trail, where she was able to get help.

Leonard knocked out six of the woman's teeth, and she later had to have two more removed because they were so badly damaged. Her jaw was broken and had to be wired shut.

Police said they were able to locate Leonard after finding his work-release ankle bracelet at the scene of the attack.

Leonard eventually pleaded guilty to charges of attempted aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and two counts of aggravated kidnapping, all first-degree felonies, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In the complaint, the woman alleges that neither Intermountain Staffing nor Universal Industrial Sales provided any screening or supervision to Leonard. She also states that the director of the Utah Jail Industries Program in Utah County "failed to timely inform the authorities of Shawn Michael Leonard's escape."

In addition to the negligence claim, the woman is asking for punitive damages from Universal Industrial Sales and Intermountain Staffing, who she says exhibited "reckless disregard" in their actions involving Leonard.

She asserts a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress against all of those named in the complaint and states that her constitutional rights were violated by Utah County, whose actions violated her "right to enjoy her life and liberties."

The woman has asked for a jury trial on the matter in addition to economic and punitive damages.

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Emiley Morgan


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