COURTS & LEGAL

Ex-junior high staff member sent to prison for sexually abusing student

Nov 14, 2023, 7:25 PM

image of a courtroom and gavel...

Kimberly Cruz, a former employee of Granite Park Junior High, was sentenced Monday to six years to life in prison for sexual abuse of a 14-year-old student at the school. (File photo)

(File photo)

WEST JORDAN — A former employee of the Granite School District apologized to people she knew she had hurt before she was sentenced to prison on Monday for sexually abusing a student.

Kimberly Jennifer Cruz Romero, 30, of Kearns, said she knew better and should have done better.

Cruz pleaded guilty on Sept. 21 to sexually abusing a student at Granite Park Junior High in South Salt Lake while she was a staff member at the school, inviting a separate student to have sex with her, and telling a third student not to report seeing her kissing a student in her office.

Judge William Kendall sentenced Cruz to a term of six years to life in prison for aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony, and said the sentence is favorable to her and many people in her position would be sentenced to at least 15 years.

The judge said he is sympathetic to her history of abuse and trauma, but her crimes are “among the most serious offenses” and show a pattern of poor decision-making and victimization of people over whom she held a position of trust.

“I think (the sentence) is fair, and just and reasonable in this circumstance,” he said.

Cruz was also sentenced to a term of zero to five years in prison for witness tampering, a third-degree felony, and five years to life in prison for criminal solicitation, a first-degree felony. These sentences will be served concurrently with the other sentence.

Deputy Salt Lake County attorney Chelsey McHugh said victims in the case were invited to write or give statements, but chose not to as part of their healing process. She said the victims were children who Cruz had access to and a position of trust over.

“I think these are egregious facts, and I do think prison is appropriate,” she said.

Cruz said she is ready to be a better wife, sister, friend and person. She said she hadn’t thought that a victim could make other victims, but she learned she could. She said she is ready to receive help and is taking responsibility.

Charging documents said the woman was an attendance tracker at the school, and the abuse leading to the first set of charges began in November 2022 when Cruz was giving a 13-year-old boy a ride home.

The charges said the victim reported he and Cruz had sexual intercourse on several occasions, including in the woman’s office at the school.

In another case, charges said a student reported seeing Cruz partially dressed in her office, kissing a student he believed was an eighth grader, and Cruz threatened to kill his family if he told anyone.

A third student reported that Cruz invited him to have sex with her in the back seat of her car when she was driving him home, but the student said no.

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Ex-junior high staff member sent to prison for sexually abusing student