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PROVO — A former Provo High School teacher and athletic trainer has pleaded guilty to having sex with a female student he taught and worked with.
Donald Nelson Bills, 55, pleaded guilty Thursday to forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony; object rape, a first-degree felony; forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony; obstructing justice, a second-degree felony; and tampering with a witness, a third-degree felony.
In exchange for the plea, 10 additional charges were dismissed.
Bills first met the teenage girl in 2012 at a softball game she was playing in, then taught her physiology and sports medicine classes during the 2012-13 school year, charging documents state. The two saw each other almost daily, and Bills would often tell the girl she was one of his favorite and brightest students.
In May 2013, Bills made special accommodations and invited the 17-year-old girl to be an intern in the school's training program, which oversaw students on all of Provo High's athletic teams, charges state. Bills told police he became attached the girl that same month, when he volunteered with her parents' permission to go to her home and examine a shoulder injury she sustained playing softball and personally wrap the injury as it was being treated over time.
As the teen worked as an intern in the athletic training office through the 2013 fall semester, Bills would talk to the girl often about his personal life, including his experiences in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his service in an LDS Church bishopric, and his absent sex life with his wife, according to the charges. Bills placed a framed photo of the girl playing softball on his desk.
The two spent time alone together as Bills asked the teen to stay late tutoring other students in his classes and working extra time as an intern, telling her that he was jealous of her boyfriend and that he couldn't stop thinking about her, according to the charges. Over time, hugging and kissing advanced to a sexual relationship, with encounters usually taking place in Bills' office at the school or in the athletic training room, charges state.
Bills used his position in an LDS bishopric to convince the girl that their behavior was not inappropriate, according to the charges. He also told her that if their relationship was ever discovered, she should say they had only kissed and that she had initiated it. Otherwise, he warned she would be hated at school as the person who "took down Donny Bills" and would no longer be allowed to participate in the athletic training program.
When a friend discovered text messages from Bills on the girl's phone in 2014, both initially insisted that they had only kissed and that the teen had instigated it, according to the charges. Bills then spoke with the girl alone about "sticking to the story."
Bills was placed on leave by the school district and later terminated. He eventually disclosed the full relationship to law enforcement.
Bills is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 17 and faces a possibility of up to life in prison.