ST. GEORGE — A defendant found guilty of multiple first-degree felony crimes, including rape of a child following a jury trial held at the end of November, was back in court for a sentencing hearing held earlier this month.

Booking photo array of Bryce Alan Taylor, 36, of St. George, taken in 2020, the first was taken on Sept 21, the second on Oct. 19, a third photo is taken on Dec. 1, 2020 | Booking photos courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The prosecutor called this case one of the most difficult in his career due to the “horrific trauma” inflicted upon the defendant’s many victims, all of whom were under the age of 9 when the crimes took place.

Bryce Alan Taylor, 36, of St. George appeared for sentencing on five first-degree felony charges — two counts of rape of a child, two counts of sodomy upon a child and one count of object rape of a child. He also was convicted of two third-degree felony counts of witness tampering — charges the jury found him guilty of following the November trial.

One case leads to seven filed in Washington County 

Between 2020 and 2021, seven cases were filed against the defendant. In one case, which resulted in a jury trial, the charges were filed in November 2020, following an investigation into the abuse of three children who were under the age of 8. The incidents reportedly took place starting in 2017.

Investigators alleged that two children were sexually assaulted by the suspect on more than one occasion, and they also learned each girl witnessed the other being abused by Taylor who perpetrated the acts while both children were in the room.

Police discovered Taylor had taken photos of a third child whose face was covered with a blanket during the abuse, pictures the defendant later showed to the youngster, along with cartoons depicting various sexual acts that appeared to be taking place between adults and children.

File photo of District Judge Keith C. Barnes presiding over the trial of Bryce Alan Taylor, who is convicted of multiple crimes relating to the sexual abuse of children during proceedings held in 5th District Court via Webex in St. George Utah, Nov. 28, 2023 | Screen shot captured by Ronald Chaffin, St. George News

Taylor was accused of molesting multiple children since 2017, resulting in dozens of charges filed in multiple cases in Washington County, as well as a case  filed in Box Elder County in 2020 and later dismissed after the victim was “not available.”

An in-depth look at the years-long investigations that led to the filing of dozens of charges in multiple cases was outlined in a report published by St. George News in December. 

The trial and ensuing verdict 

The road to the trial was marred by motions and continuances that continued for more than two years. One motion was filed by Taylor to represent himself during the trial after he dismissed his defense attorney Steven Nielsen. The judge did grant the motion but requested that Nielsen remain on standby in case Taylor needed counsel, or in the event the defendant changed his mind.

Taylor submitted a series of memorandums and notices during the weeks and months prior to the trial that began with jury selection and opening arguments on Nov. 27. It was over by late afternoon the following day with a guilty verdict.

The victims speak

Several victim impact statements were read during the Jan. 11 sentencing hearing. The majority of them were read by the victims themselves, some of whom were as young as six when the incidents took place.

One statement said the guilty charge, the rape of a child, she said, could only be described as “reprehensible and unforgivable,” adding that Taylor “clearly has no remorse for what he did,” or he never would have put the children he had abused through further trauma by taking the case to trial. 

In another statement, the victim described the fear associated with repeated abuse that resulted in self-loathing and a sense of trust that was completely shattered. In another statement, the victim described how she had “put every piece of clothing on” that she had with her, and then she would hide, actions she hoped would hamper the defendant’s efforts, or at least delay what was about to happen, she said.

2023 file photo for illustrative purposes only of Prosecutor Jerry Jaeger during hearing before District Judge Keith C. Barnes in 5th District Court, St. George, Utah, May 2, 2023 | Court pool photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Another girl spoke of the pain and hurt of not being believed when they tried to disclose the abuse. Several statements mentioned prior suicide attempts or ideation, depression and severe trauma responses that followed in the wake of Taylor’s crimes, which were part of the defendant’s “disgusting desire to sexually assault a child,” she said. 

One youth said it has taken years of therapy to begin the process of reversing the damage the defendant has caused, and she went on to say that Taylor “deserves to sit with the gravity of what he did for the rest of his life,” and he should never be given the chance to hurt anyone again. “Because the damage that he did will stick with all of us forever. Absolutely no one deserves that.”

Another victim told the court that Taylor should never be allowed around children and said the defendant would be a danger to society for the rest of his life.

“No child will ever be safe as long as he is out,” she said.

The state weighs in

Prosecutor Jerry Jaeger said this case is one of, if not the most difficult case he has worked in his 20-year career as a prosecutor, and he thanked prosecutor Lane Wood for his work in the case. He also lauded the young victims for their courage.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank each of them for their bravery. What makes this case so difficult was meeting each of these amazing young women and hearing their stories of the horrific things that Bryce Taylor did to each of them,” Jaeger said, and what’s been so difficult, he said, is hearing the trauma that he has caused to each of them.

Stock image of 5th District Court in St. George, Utah | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

However, Jaeger said, because they are “amazing young women, I am confident that they’re going to move forward” and will continue to deal with trauma in a healthy manner.

Jaeger said the state wanted Taylor to remain in prison for the rest of his life. At the least, they wanted the sentence on each of the first-degree felony charges to be run consecutively, one count for each of the victims that Jaeger named, one at a time, in front of the judge.

He went on to say that calling the defendant a monster or a pedophile was not strong enough; in fact, he said, the best word the prosecutor could come up with to describe the defendant is a habitual child molester.

It was also important for the court to know that right after the defendant was convicted in November, the prosecutor said, Taylor called his mother from the jail. “And they laughed, and they joked,” about the defendant “being a pervert,” Jaeger said, which Taylor was heard saying, “is not a crime,” during the call.

The prosecutor closed by saying the defendant has never shown any accountability whatsoever throughout the court process, “he needs to be locked away forever to protect society.”

The ruling 

District Judge Keith C. Barnes said just prior to his ruling, that with the sadness he feels, he also wanted the victims to know what an honor it was for him to be in the presence of such “brave and incredible victims” who were present in the courtroom.

2022 file photo for illustrative purposes only of District Judge Keith C. Barnes during hearing in St. George, Utah, Oct. 27, 2022 | Court pool photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

To Taylor, Barnes said how grateful he was for the courage the victims demonstrated in the case, after the “horrible things that you did to these children.” He lauded the courage the victims continued to demonstrate when Taylor victimized them again by making them take the witness stand by taking the case to trial.

In reference to the phone call that was recorded at the jail, Barnes said, “There was nothing even remotely funny about it.”

Barnes then sentenced the defendant to serve 25 years to life on each of the five first-degree felonies and 0-5 years in prison for each of the two third-degree felonies. He also ordered that the sentences be run consecutively. The transport order was signed at the close of the hearing.

While the decision of how long the defendant serves is ultimately left up to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, the defendant will not be eligible for parole until he has served at least 125 years.

The other cases filed against the defendant were dismissed without prejudice, meaning the state could refile the charges if Taylor is released early. The defendant has filed an appeal in the case.

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