Sex offender who grabbed girl at Tucson church convicted of misdemeanor

| October 17, 2009

A 57-year-old convicted sex offender who was arrested last year after witnesses said he tried to snatch a 4-year-old girl from Santa Cruz Catholic Church was convicted Friday of unlawful imprisonment, a misdemeanor.

John Arthur Drusts had been facing the more serious felony charge of kidnapping, but jurors apparently agreed with Assistant Pima County Public Defender Paul Skitzki, who said the state had failed to prove Drusts snatched the girl because he had a sexual motive.
In order to be convicted of kidnapping, prosecutors have to prove a defendant did so because they were motivated by sex or the desire to harm or kill someone.

Jurors couldn’t be told about Drusts’ status as a convicted sex offender or that he is facing a second trial on a “failure to register as a sex offender” charge, said Deputy Pima County Attorney Anita Simons, who tried the case with fellow prosecutor Bunkye Chi.

Toribio Gutierrez testified Thursday that he and his wife were serving breakfast at the church on March 30, 2008, when someone told him a man had grabbed his 4-year-old daughter.

Gutierrez explained all of the families typically watch out for each other’s children and the last time he’d seen his daughter she was with her brothers near tables in the multipurpose room.

“I ran over to take her from him,” Toribio Gutierrez said through a Spanish-speaking interpreter. “I moved quicker when I saw he’d hid behind where the theater stage is.”

He can’t remember if Drusts, whom he didn’t know, said anything to him, but he remembers handing his daughter to his wife, Gutierrez said.

“I was irate. I was feeling fear. I just took her from him,” Gutierrez said.

At the time of Drusts’ arrest, Tucson police said Drusts was steps away from an alleyway and escape.

Police officers were one block away when they saw the call come up on their patrol car computer and found Drusts surrounded when they arrived at the church, 1220 S. Sixth Ave., police said.

Drusts was last registered at a Phoenix address despite living in Tucson for the past two years, police said.

Drusts was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape in 1979 in Los Angeles, sexual abuse in Corvallis, Ore. in 1987 and sexual assault in Yellowstone, Mont. in 1994, court documents indicate.
If convicted of failing to register as a sex offender, Drusts could be sentenced to somewhere between six and 15 years in prison.

His trial in that case has not yet been set.

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Category: Church Security

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