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Former Nelson County deputy convicted of child sex crimes

After four hours of deliberation, a jury on Tuesday returned 18 guilty verdicts against a former Nelson County emergency services coordinator and ex-county sheriff’s deputy in a sexual assault case involving a minor.

Raymond Matthew Uttaro, a 64-year-old Shipman resident, was found guilty in Nelson Circuit Court of four counts each of aggravated sexual battery, forcible sodomy and distributing drugs to a minor; two counts each of object sexual penetration and carnal knowledge of a minor; and one count each of abduction and abuse.

Nelson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Daniel Rutherford said the minor disclosed to a therapist in July details of several years of sexual abuse by Uttaro. The teenager said Uttaro gave him oxycodone pills to crush up and snort prior to sexual activities and the abuse “escalated” over time, especially when the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020 forced the victim into online learning, Rutherford said.

The teen for years did not disclose the abuse for fear of being viewed as “a nobody” while Uttaro, a volunteer at a Nelson County fire department, was seen as an outstanding community member, Rutherford told jurors.

The prosecutor said the “vulnerable” teen was scared after Uttaro threatened the victim with a gun with orders not to tell anyone.

“Everything Ray is doing is for sexual gratification,” Rutherford said of the relationship. “[The victim] was Ray Uttaro’s sex toy.”

Dana Cormier, Uttaro’s attorney, said his client tried to help the “very disturbed” minor who was in a setting with professionals around to “weed out” sexual abuse. Cormier said in court the “brutal” accusations were the result of an “obsessed” group of investigators, social workers and counselors prejudiced against Uttaro.

The teen is a victim “but not Ray Uttaro’s victim,” Cormier said.

Rutherford said staff workers at a Kenbridge counseling center observed Uttaro in inappropriate sexual contact with the teen in a conference room, corroborating the abuse and spurring the minor to disclose it.

In just more than two hours of testimony, the teen said the abuse “got worse” and the victim didn’t leave the environment due to liking the drug use and being afraid of Uttaro.

The minor testified to feeling “trapped” and described Uttaro’s actions as “evil.”

Cormier asked why Uttaro would take the child to counseling sessions if he didn’t want anyone to know.

“To uphold the facade,” the teen responded.

The minor said testifying was like “reopening a scar.”

A former employee of the counseling center in the town of Kenbridge said in court he felt something wasn’t right when he observed the two in a conference room and Uttaro tried to conceal an erection.

The therapist at the same center testified the victim deals with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Former Nelson County Sheriff’s investigator Jeremy Tabler testified he responded to Uttaro’s residence a year before the abuse was disclosed to break up a physical struggle between the two. Tabler said Uttaro told him the teen, who smelled of alcohol and wasn’t responsive to the officer, tried to cause self-harm with the gun.

Tabler testified he responded to multiple incidents between the two prior to the abuse being disclosed last summer.

A former Nelson County social services worker testified she suspected possible abuse based on her observations, but the teen was never “pressured” to come forward.

Larry Wells, a longtime Lovingston funeral home director, friend and landlord to Uttaro, testified he asked the teen one time if any abuse occurred, which drew a response: “No way, that’s gross.”

Uttaro testified he served eight years as a Nelson sheriff’s deputy and 11 years as the county’s emergency services coordinator before he was terminated more than a decade ago for embezzling, a charge he admitted to. He testified the teen attacked him with a hammer when he no longer gave the minor marijuana, admitting it was a mistake for the two to smoke together.

Uttaro denied giving the teen any other drugs and in court disputed testimony of two witnesses for the prosecution that abuse occurred at the counseling center.

Cormier asked Uttaro if he ever harmed the minor.

“Never,” Uttaro said. “I did everything in my power to help that child.”

Uttaro said he felt “singled out” by the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office.

“I was uncomfortable with that office,” Uttaro said.

Rutherford said Uttaro’s testimony is “unbelievable” and the defendant’s story of a tearful goodbye with the victim after the incident at the Kenbridge counseling center was fabricated.

“What’s incredible is they tried to present it to you as if it happened,” Rutherford told jurors.

Cormier said a group of trained professionals were “harassing and hounding” the teen to confess to abuse and called the counseling center incident “absolutely preposterous.”

Cormier asked jurors why Uttaro would be so invested in counseling for the minor if abuse was occurring.

“He’s doing that because he’s not a sexual predator,” Cormier said.

Cormier said a group was “squeezing in on an innocent relationship” to fit their “suspicions and prejudices.”

“But you can’t — that’s the law,” Cormier told jurors.

Rutherford said those professionals caught red flags in spotting abuse.

“They did their job — and they were right,” Rutherford said.

Uttaro wept and shook his head as the 18 guilty verdicts were read Tuesday, concluding a two-day trial. Cormier said Uttaro will appeal the verdicts.

Rutherford said the charges could carry life in prison. Judge Michael Doucette set an Aug. 8 sentencing hearing in Nelson Circuit Court.

The Nelson County Sheriff’s Office and Nelson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office victim witness advocate Beth Phelps put a lot of work into the case, Rutherford said.

“It took a lot of courage, it took a lot of perseverance to come forward,” Rutherford said of the victim. “Justice was served.”

He said his office works hard to prosecute sexual assaults and this specific case wasn’t easy without DNA and forensics evidence.

“When victims aren’t able to speak for themselves … we will be there for them to make sure justice is heard,” Rutherford said.


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