Suit says detective botched sex probe
$3 million sought: A man once accused of rape says the false allegations cost him his business
By Pamela Manson
The Salt Lake Tribune




Life was good for store owner Jerry Bodtcher in the small community of Elsinore, where he spent time on the City Council, served as fire chief and was a sponsoring coach in the Little League.
But everything fell apart in the summer of 2002 when a former employee complained she had been sexually assaulted by Bodtcher many years before, and a Sevier County Sheriff's Department detective conducted a sloppy investigation, the businessman claims. Bodtcher says the inadequate probe led to the loss of his business and the humiliation of being falsely labeled a criminal.
Now, a year and a half after he was acquitted by a jury of 10 counts of child rape, Bodtcher has filed a lawsuit accusing the investigator, Detective Tom Jensen, of malicious prosecution and violation of his constitutional rights. The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, seeks at least $3 million in damages.
Jensen said Monday that he has not been delivered a copy of the suit and declined comment.
Bodtcher was accused of raping one of his clerks from September 1985 through October 1987, when the girl was 12 to 14 years old, usually on holidays at his Sunny Shopper Chevron station.
She made a complaint to the Sheriff's Office in 2002, about eight months after she revealed the alleged crime to her therapist. According to the lawsuit, she was taking anti-depressants and had been in family therapy for a year before she said anything about being sexually assaulted. She and her therapist, who is a social worker, had been discussing repressed feelings before she made the revelation, the suit says.
The allegations were suspect from the beginning, the lawsuit contends.


The accuser's school and medical records did not show that she was suffering from any apparent physical or psychological problems, according to the suit, and no other employees reported seeing any sexual acts or inappropriate conduct with Bodtcher.
The suit also says Jensen never interviewed store managers or checked work schedules, which showed Bodtcher did not work on holidays, and failed to tape his interviews with witnesses.
Bodtcher, who now lives in California, was charged and arrested after the allegations were made. Soon after his release from jail pending trial, he sold his store, allegedly at a $350,000 loss.
His first trial in 6th District Court ended in a hung jury. At the second trial, a psychologist testified for the defense about repressed memory and how therapy sometimes leads patients to rewrite their history.
According to the suit, the psychologist, who has trained FBI agents in conducting probes of child sex abuse, testified that the Bodtcher case "was the worst police investigation he had ever seen."
On Oct. 31, 2003, after an hour and an half of deliberation, jurors returned with a not guilty verdict.