District Court, Brigham City Department The Honorable Thomas
Willmore No. 131100311
Stephen W. Howard, Attorney for Appellant
D. Reyes and Christopher D. Ballard, Attorneys for Appellee.
Michele M. Christiansen authored this Opinion, in which
Judges J. Frederic Voros Jr. and David N. Mortensen
Jeffrey Parnell Ringstad (Defendant) appeals his convictions
for two counts of rape of a child, one count of object rape
of a child, two counts of sodomy on a child, and three counts
of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, all first degree
felonies. We affirm.
Defendant married a woman (Mother) in September 2009.
Defendant and Mother lived together with Mother's minor
children-the victim (Victim) and her older sister (Sister).
In 2011, as the family was preparing to be "sealed"
in an LDS temple, Mother asked Victim if she "felt
worthy to go to the temple so [they] could have [their]
forever family." According to Mother, Victim stated that
she "felt like she was good but she didn't feel like
everybody involved was [worthy]." Victim explained to
Mother that "[Defendant] had been touching [her]
Mother confronted Defendant with Victim's allegations.
Defendant denied sexually abusing Victim. Defendant suggested
that "[Victim] was having nightmares, it must have been
dreams, it wasn't true." Mother believed Defendant
because he "was the man [she] was getting ready to go
through the temple [with], he was a police officer, he was a
firefighter." Mother and Defendant told Victim that she
must have been dreaming because Defendant "would never
do anything like that to [her]." Victim "went along
Victim later testified that she "knew what had happened,
. . . that [Defendant] was touching [her] and that they
weren't dreams, " but she went along with Mother and
Defendant because Defendant had threatened to divorce Mother.
Victim wanted "an eternal family" and wanted
Defendant and Mother to stay together.
In September 2013, Defendant disclosed to Mother that he was
having an affair, and they separated in October 2013.
Defendant moved to live with his new
girlfriend. About a week after Defendant moved out,
Victim told a school counselor that Defendant had sexually
abused her. Victim later testified that she told the
counselor because she "was losing [her] forever
In November 2013, a detective interviewed Victim after she
received a referral from the Division of Child and Family
Services. During her interview with the detective, Victim
alleged that on at least two separate occasions, Defendant
had "tried to put his penis inside of her and that it
hurt." The detective also met with Mother, who relayed
an allegation by Sister that Defendant had "come into
her bedroom and wanted to cuddle with her, " but Sister
told him to get out. The detective gave Sister an opportunity
to make a written statement, but Sister did not make any
disclosures regarding rape or other sexual abuse at that
time. According to the detective, the witness statement form
had "a disclaimer that tells people to make sure they
fill that out honestly" and "if they fill it out
and it's not honest, they could be charged with a
Around that time, the detective also interviewed Defendant. A
video recording of Defendant's interview was played for
the jury at trial. In the recording, Defendant admitted that
there were "a couple of incidents where [he and Victim]
had some inappropriate touching." When the detective
asked Defendant to explain "how [he] inappropriately
touched [Victim], " Defendant explained, "I touched
[Victim's] private areas with my hands and with my
privates" "[t]wo or three" times.
In December 2013, a pediatric nurse physically examined both
Victim and Sister. She testified that neither child's
examination revealed any "trauma or . . . tearing or . .
. scar tissue." The pediatric nurse explained that this
was not unusual because "the body can . . . heal very
quickly in that area."
Defendant was charged with two counts of rape of a child, one
count of object rape of a child, two counts of sodomy on a
child, and three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a
At trial, Victim testified that Defendant sexually abused her
from the summer of 2011 through "June or July of
2013." The abuse occurred in Defendant's bedroom.
According to Victim, Defendant called her "his baby
girl" "[w]hile he was touching [her], " but he
never called her that before the abuse began. Victim
testified that there had been multiple instances of
inappropriate touching, but she only testified with
particularity about two instances.
Victim testified that the first instance had occurred in the
early morning after Mother had gone to work. Defendant picked
Victim up and carried her to his room, where he laid her on
his bed and took off her clothes. Defendant took off his
robe, revealing that he had no clothes on underneath. Victim
had "no idea what was going on" and "was so
scared." According to Victim, Defendant told her
"if [she] ever told anyone what he was about to do, that
he would get a divorce with [her] mom." Defendant then
got on top of Victim and started touching her breasts with
his hands. Defendant also licked her vagina. Defendant then
"sat up and . . . tried to push his penis" into
Victim's vagina. When Victim told him to stop, Defendant
"reached over to his night stand drawer and pulled out a
bottle of green jelly." Defendant squeezed some of the
jelly "on his finger and . . . started rubbing
[Victim's] vagina with it and then he tried to push his
penis into [her] vagina again." Defendant pushed his
penis into Victim's vagina "[a] little bit" and
ultimately ejaculated "[o]n top of [her] vagina."
Victim testified that the second incident also occurred in
the early morning while Mother was at work. Defendant again
carried Victim from her room to his room, laid her on his
bed, and took off her clothes. She testified that Defendant
was again wearing a robe but that this time, he wore
religious "garments" underneath the robe. Defendant
asked Victim "if [she] wanted to make love." When
Victim asked Defendant what that meant, he replied,
"I'll show you." Defendant then "put his
finger in [Victim] and started fingering [her]." Victim
told Defendant that she "didn't want to do this,
that it hurt too much." Defendant then "reached
over to his night stand drawer and . . . grabbed the bottle
of green jelly." Defendant set the bottle on the bed and
started licking Victim's vagina. He then rubbed the jelly
on Victim's vagina and his penis and "tried to put
his penis in [her] [while] he kept grabbing [her] breasts and
squeezing them." Victim testified that Defendant again
put his penis inside her "[a] little bit" and that
he ejaculated in her vagina. Defendant told Victim that
"[she] had to go sit on the toilet for it to come
Victim further testified that she did not "call for
help" or tell anyone because she did not want anyone to
know about the abuse and because Defendant was her
"first image of a father and [she] wanted to keep it
that way. [She] wanted her forever family to be
forever." In addition to the two specific instances that
Victim described, she estimated that Defendant had touched
her inappropriately more than ten times between the summers
of 2011 and 2013, but she also testified it happened
"sometimes once, twice a week."
In November 2013, while she was visiting her grandmother for
Thanksgiving, Sister claimed, for the first time, that she
had also been previously sexually abused by Defendant. Sister
met with the detective a second time after the Thanksgiving
holiday. Sister testified at trial that Defendant had raped
her approximately thirty times from early 2011 to the summer
of 2013. Sister testified that the rapes occurred in her
According to Sister, "[f]or the first little while,
[Defendant] would just come down in his . . . garments,
" and "he would rub [her] back underneath [her]
shirt." This happened for approximately six months.
Sister testified that Defendant then started removing both
his and Sister's clothes and raping her. Sister testified
that the rapes were violent and that she would "try to
fight and . . . kick and get away from him, " but
Defendant "started putting belts around [her], around
[her] arms so that [she] couldn't flail." Sister
stated that Defendant would sometimes bring his own belt to
bind her arms, but more often than not he used her belt.
Defendant threatened to divorce Mother if Sister told anyone.
Sister acknowledged that she had told police that during the
rapes, Defendant would sometimes "throw [her] around and
grip on [her] hair." Sister also told police that
Defendant would "spank [her] buttocks so hard that it
[became] red and it hurt" and that the rapes caused her
to bleed. And while Victim had testified that Defendant
called her his "baby girl" when he abused her,
Sister testified that Defendant never called her that.
Sister further acknowledged that during and after the alleged
abuse, she maintained good grades and participated in
extracurricular activities. She also admitted that after
Victim had reported Defendant's abuse, Mother had asked
Sister if Defendant had been abusing her, and Sister had
replied that he had not.
Mother testified that although Victim told her in 2011 that
Defendant had "been touching her inappropriately, "
Mother believed Defendant when he denied abusing Victim
because "[h]e was the man that [she] was married to and
getting ready to be sealed to."
Mother testified that when she learned that Defendant was
having an affair with his new girlfriend, her "world
crumbled" and she had "suicidal thoughts."
Mother stated, "We were sealed in the temple, he was
supposed to be my eternal spouse [but] he's having an
According to Mother, there was "no possible way"
that Victim could have independently known about the bottle
of green jelly that Defendant had used on her. Mother
testified that Victim had "no access to the
bedroom" and that Defendant "was a very private
person" who always kept the bedroom door locked when he
and Mother were not home. Mother testified that the bedroom
door was closed when she and Defendant were home and that she
never found Victim "poking" around in their
Mother admitted that after Defendant moved in with his new
girlfriend, she went to their house and confronted Defendant
and pushed him. She stated that she was "[v]ery angry at
Mother further testified that Victim "was a social
butterfly" and that both Victim and Sister were
"[a]s normal as teenagers can be." She stated that
Defendant "had a closer relationship" with Victim
because Defendant and Sister "butted heads."
Lastly, Mother testified that both girls remained active in
their extracurricular activities.
Defendant's mother testified that she had stayed with the
family during the summer of 2011 while she recovered from
back surgery. She testified that she had not seen
"anything that alarmed [her] in behaviors involving the
children and [Defendant]" and that she did not see
"any changes in any behaviors between the two girls and
Defendant's mother testified that on one occasion after
Defendant moved in with his new girlfriend, Mother went to
the girlfriend's house and "took ahold of
[Defendant] and just started shaking him." She also
testified that Mother had stolen some of Defendant's
property and that Mother had told her that she was
"going to see that she got [Defendant's] annuity
[from an accident] for her girls."
Finally, Defendant testified. He denied ever raping either
Victim or Sister. Defendant acknowledged that he had admitted
in his interview with the detective that there had been some
"inappropriate touching" between Victim and
himself. In explaining what he meant by "inappropriate
touching, " Defendant testified that "[t]here had
been a couple of times that [Victim] had come into the
bedroom and had climbed up in bed with [him] to snuggle"
and that "she'd pull[ed] herself in really close to
[him]." He testified that he was once lying on his side
when Victim "started pulling herself back into [him] a
little bit tighter, kinda scooching back in, trying to get
close" and that she had "started rubbing up against
[his] private areas with her back side." He clarified
that by "back side" he meant her "buttocks
According to Defendant, he and Victim had been lying there
for a few minutes when she "reached up and grabbed [his]
hand and was kinda rubbing herself with it." He
testified that Victim "then pushed [his hand] down
towards her private area" and that "when [he]
realized [his] hand touched her private area" he
"pulled [his] hand away and responded to her, telling
her that's not what we do, it's not a good
thing." Defendant testified that his garments never came
off and that Victim's clothes never came off. He
testified that "there [was] skin-to-skin touching"
when Victim "pushed [his] hand down toward her private
area" and that his "hand actually touch[ed] her
private areas underneath the clothing."
Defendant further testified that a similar incident occurred
a few weeks later. He stated that after the second incident
he told Victim, "[W]e don't do that, that's not
the right thing. I love you, we don't do things like
this." Defendant denied ever being "sexually
aroused with [Victim]" and stated that the inappropriate
touching "was [not] something that [he] intended to have
happen" nor "something [he] wanted to have
happen." Defendant testified that Sister's testimony
was untrue and that he had never tied her up.
On cross-examination, the prosecutor asked Defendant "to
explain how [his] penis touched [Victim's] private parts,
" and Defendant replied, "I don't know."
Defendant stated that Victim "had snuggled back into
[him] and was grinding against [him], grinding into [his]
private parts." Defendant stated that he did not tell
Mother what had happened because he "knew that [she]
would be very, very, very, very unhappy with any of it"
and that he was trying to protect Victim. The prosecutor
further asked Defendant, "So, [the detective] asked you
if there was any inappropriate touching and you're
telling me that you confessed to touching [Victim] in her
private parts with her [sic] hands and your penis to protect
[Victim] from her mother?" Defendant replied,
"Yes." Defendant stated that he was initially
willing to confess to a crime to protect Victim, but he was
no longer worried about protecting her.
Defendant also testified that several years previously, he
suffered "severe closed-head injuries" that
required brain surgery. Defendant stated that he still
suffers from short-term and long-term memory problems.
The jury convicted Defendant on all counts. He now appeals.
AND STANDARDS OF REVIEW
Defendant raises two principal issues on appeal. First, he
contends that "the admission of evidence regarding other
violent sexual crimes allegedly committed against a person
other than the complaining witness was error that deprived
[him] of his right to [a] fair trial." Second, he
contends that "the prosecutor engaged in prosecutorial
misconduct by repeatedly eliciting testimony and making
argument regarding various religious matters not relevant to
the charges, by arguing facts that were not in evidence, and
by expressing his own personal opinion and personally
disparaging [Defendant]." Defendant concedes that these
issues were not preserved but asserts that we may reach their
merits via the plain error and ineffective assistance of
counsel exceptions to preservation. "The plain error
standard of review requires an appellant to show the
existence of a harmful error that should have been obvious to
the district court." State v. Kennedy, 2015 UT
App 152, ¶ 23, 354 P.3d 775 (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). "An ineffective assistance of
counsel claim raised for the first time on appeal presents a
question of law." State v. Clark, 2004 UT 25,
¶ 6, 89 P.3d 162.
Lastly, Defendant contends that "the cumulative effect
of the several errors committed in the trial court deprived
[him] of his right to a fair trial." "We will
reverse a conviction under this doctrine when 'the
cumulative effect of the several errors undermines our
confidence . . . that a fair trial was had.'"
State v. Lomu, 2014 UT App 42, ¶ 7, 321 ...