LOCAL NEWS

Eagle Mountain Man Facing Charge For Grocery Store Incident Involving Teen Girls

Apr 8, 2021, 5:44 AM

EAGLE MOUNTAIN, Utah – Investigators with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday they were recommending a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct to prosecutors over an alleged encounter between a man and a group of girls at a grocery store.

On Mar. 31, deputies responded to Ridley’s Family Markets, located at 4045 Pony Express Parkway, on a report that the man had grabbed one of the early teenagers and also made inappropriate comments.

Claire Espinoza, 13, who was part of the group, said the man actually followed the girls around and made improper remarks not just to them.

“He kept just going up to random girls, even if they were just older, younger — it didn’t matter,” she said. “He’d just go up and talk to them about their body, I guess.”

The teen’s mother, Kate Espinoza, said the man even alluded to taking the girls out of the country.

“He said that he wanted to take them to Mexico because in Mexico men can do anything they want to little girls,” she said.

Social media posts about the incident drew significant community discussion along with calls for action from police.

UCSO Sgt. Spencer Cannon said after reviewing the case for nearly a week, detectives submitted their case to prosecutors requesting a disorderly conduct charge against the man, who they identified publicly as 78-year-old Kenneth Strickland.

“We think it meets the elements,” Cannon said. “I think the girls did the right thing. They were just being polite. This man was talking to them and they didn’t have initial reason to be concerned. The grabbing the arm wasn’t what concerned them. It’s what he was talking about that caused the concern, and then the grabbing the arm brings into focus — wait a minute, he’s talking about this, why did he grab (her) by the arm.”

Cannon said if the man had made an attempt to pull the girl away or take one of them, deputies might have had more to pursue.

“In this case, we didn’t have anything else,” Cannon said.

Kate Espinoza said she was grateful for the efforts of deputies in their investigation of the case.

“I do feel a little bit of a victory because he is going to be held accountable to something, which is huge,” she said late Wednesday.

Cannon in return praised the actions of the girls, noting that they removed themselves from the situation, told an adult and eventually contacted law enforcement.

“It’s a concern that anybody would behave toward young people that way,” Cannon said.

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Eagle Mountain Man Facing Charge For Grocery Store Incident Involving Teen Girls