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Rape charges filed in once ‘wrongfully closed’ cases uncovered by KSL Investigators

May 18, 2023, 8:51 PM | Updated: 9:52 pm

FARMINGTON, Utah – Three months after a KSL investigation revealed a failure to fully investigate reports of rape against a single suspect, two cases re-opened by the Davis County Sheriff’s Office have led to first-degree felony rape charges.

Joshua Lloyd Homer, 27, now faces four counts of rape in Second District Court. Those charges represent allegations made by three different women.

A Delay in Justice

In February, a Failure to Protect report by the KSL Investigators detailed the story of Baylie Steed who in June 2020 reported a sexual assault at the hands of Homer to the Davis County Sheriff’s Office. The incident had happened years prior, but Steed had only recently felt comfortable enough to come forward.

She met with a detective for a recorded interview.

“I never heard back,” she said during an interview in December 2022. “I thought I would hear back within a couple of months.”

Steed wasn’t the only woman who had made a report of rape against Homer with the Davis County Sheriff’s Office. A second woman also sat down for a recorded interview with the agency in the summer of 2020, and she too was still waiting to hear from a detective when KSL Investigators spoke with her in January.

The KSL Investigators filed two public record requests with the Davis County Sheriff’s Office last year, seeking any reports involving Homer. Both times, no records related to sexual assault were provided.

It wasn’t until the KSL Investigators sent a third request in December 2022, after learning the names of both women, that the sheriff’s office located their reports, which revealed why Steed and the other woman hadn’t heard back.

In response to questions from the KSL investigators, the sheriff’s office issued a statement in February, saying in part: “The detective assigned to the case inaccurately believed that the charges for these two assaults would be handled by a different agency that had similar open cases on Mr. Homer. Recently, our office was made aware that internal protocols were not followed and subsequently, those cases were wrongfully closed. We recognize that our lapse in protocol resulted in a delay in justice for these two victims and we’re sincerely sorry.”

The Sheriff’s Office re-opened both investigations and said it has implemented additional protocols for case management, designed to prevent instances like this from happening in the future.

Charges Filed

Following months of investigation and screening by the Davis County Attorney’s Office, prosecutors filed four charges of first-degree felony rape against Homer on Thursday. Those four counts involve reports from both women whose cases were re-opened by the Sheriff’s office as well as a case investigated by Syracuse police but previously declined for charges by the Davis County Attorney’s Office.

In December, County Attorney Troy Rawlings told the KSL Investigators they did not have enough evidence to file charges in that third case at that time.

“Had we gone to trial, we would have lost that case,” he said.

During that interview, Rawlings discussed sexual assault cases naming Homer that his office had declined for charges.

“If we do get sufficient evidence in the future to go back and prosecute them, we would love to,” Rawlings said.

Missing Pieces

The KSL Investigators have consulted some of the country’s leading experts in best practices for sexual assault investigations. Dr. Lisa Avalos is a law professor at Louisiana State University. She stressed the importance of fully investigating every case.

“I think about every sexual assault complainant who comes forward as a piece of a larger puzzle,” she told the KSL Investigators at a conference in Chicago in March.

“If you decide you’re going to dispense with that person by throwing their case in the trash, never looking at it again, you are missing pieces of the puzzle that show you the pattern of sexual assaults in your community,” Avalos said.

Tom Tremblay is a retired chief of police from Burlington, Vermont who helped craft best practices for investigating sexual assault adopted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He said successful sexual assault investigations are trauma-informed, victim-centered, and offender-focused.

“Not every sex offender is a serial offender, but many are, and so we want to look at those interconnected and co-occurring crimes that are often part of these offenders,” he said.

From Day Reporting to Prison

In October 2022, Joshua Homer pled guilty in two cases involving unlawful sexual activity with a minor. He was sentenced to spend just nine days in jail. Homer was arrested for multiple probation violations the day after the KSL Investigators’ first report on him aired in December. He is now serving a zero-to-five-year prison sentence in that case.

Even though Homer is currently incarcerated, the documents filed Thursday show Davis County prosecutors are asking he be held in this most recent case with no bail.

The KSL Investigators have identified and tracked the cases of a dozen women who made reports of sexual assault against Homer to various Utah law enforcement agencies over the last decade. Thursday’s filing represents the first time Homer has been charged with rape as an adult.

This report is part of a series examining how apparent gaps at every level of Utah’s criminal justice system fail to protect Utahns.  

If you have experienced sexual violence, you can access help and resources by calling Utah’s 24-hour Sexual Violence Helpline at 1-888-421-1100. You can also call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 for free, confidential counseling. 

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you. 

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Rape charges filed in once ‘wrongfully closed’ cases uncovered by KSL Investigators