Men with local connections arrested in Denver sex sting
SUMMIT COUNTY – A local search and rescue volunteer and a former Summit Daily News employee who worked briefly for the Summit School District were arrested during a March sex sting involving police posing as a 14-year-old girl in Jefferson County, according to a report in the Denver Post this week. Justin Epperly, 27, worked as a substitute teacher with the Summit School District for two days in May 2004, according to the school’s records. The records do not show which school he worked in. He worked part-time at the Summit Daily News as assistant web editor from July to December 2004.Epperly declined to comment on the charges against him.The school district performs background checks upon hiring and Epperly’s did not show a prior arrest, a school official said. He also signed an applicant’s oath to disclose prior arrests, as is required of all potential employees.Crawford Rainwater III, 34, of Westminster, was a volunteer with the Summit Rescue Group. Neither Epperly nor Rainwater currently lives in the county.The two were arrested after arriving at a home allegedly expecting to meet a 14-year-old girl with whom they chatted on the internet. They found police officers instead. Both men, along with 12 others, have been charged with enticement of a child and attempted sexual assault of a child, according to the Denver Post.The Summit Rescue Group dismissed Rainwater from the search and rescue group on Thursday afternoon in light of his arrest, according to a press release from Mike Schmitt, the group’s public information officer.Rainwater joined the volunteer group as an active member in September 2005 and had participated in two missions, the release said.”We’re not going to tolerate this kind of behavior at all from anyone who is affiliated with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, including those who are volunteering,” Sheriff John Minor said on Thursday.
The Summit Rescue Group is under the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office and receives a budget from the department, but is run primarily by its mission coordinators, who are also volunteers.Minor said criminal background checks are done intermittently on those working on any level with the sheriff’s office, and that Rainwater did not have a criminal history. He said in light of this incident, he will look at ordering background checks more often on volunteers.Minor said he did not know whether Rainwater had ever lived in the county, but that he did spend weekends in town occasionally.Rainwater could not be reached for comment by the Summit Daily News, but told investigators that he came to the home intending to talk the girl out of it, the Post said.The sting involved police agencies from three Front Range counties and three cities, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.Police disguised themselves as a 14-year-old girl who was home alone for the weekend to bait potential internet sex offenders. They chatted online with the suspects about interests, hobbies and eventually sex, the Post said. The 14 suspects all arrived at a home in Jefferson County to meet with the “teen,” but instead police bombarded them with SWAT officers and TV cameras.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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