The Utah County Attorney’s Office filed four first-degree felony charges of rape against a former Mt. Nebo Junior High School teacher Monday following his arrest on Dec. 1.
Officers with the Santaquin Police Department were contacted by officials investigating a sexual assault offense. A minor female had contacted authorities, and during an interview, she disclosed that she had been “in a sexual relationship with a former school teacher,” according to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest.
The school teacher was identified as 28-year-old Zachery Kent Denison of Lehi. The girl told authorities the incidents began in February of 2019 when she was under the age of 16 years old.
After the initial incident, Denison would allegedly assault the minor once a month for about a year. This behavior reportedly lasted about two years and occurred in several places around the state, including Eureka in Juab County, Payson Canyon, Orem and in other unknown locations.
Denison was interviewed by police with his attorney present on Dec. 1. During the interview, Denison allegedly said he had initiated contact with one of his students while he was employed as a teacher at the Payson school. Denison reportedly confirmed that the sexual intercourse with said student began in February of 2019, stating that the relationship was consensual.
According to Utah Code — specifically located in Title 76, chapter 5 of the Utah Criminal Code, 76-5-401.2 — the age of consent in the state of Utah is 18 years old. In addition, sexual conduct is unlawful with a minor — those between the age of 16 and 17 years old — if the defendant is 10 or more years older than the minor at the time of the incident.
Additionally, Denison allegedly told authorities he had been involved in sexual intercourse with the student about 10 times, the last of which was in August of 2020, according to arrest documents.
Denison also allegedly said he and the juvenile had also exchanged nude photographs over social media. Denison surrendered his laptop and cellphone to the police.
In addition to being the girl’s teacher, Denison was also the girl’s basketball coach, placing the defendant in a position of special trust, according to authorities.
Denison was arrested under the suspicion of first-degree felony rape on Dec. 1. About a week later, on Monday, prosecutors charged Denison with four first-degree felony counts of rape.
He is currently being held at the Utah County Jail without bail.
A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 17 at 1:30 p.m. on the seventh floor of the Provo District Courthouse.
After leaving his position at the Payson junior high, Denison allegedly moved to Colorado, where he was the social studies teacher and basketball coach at Berthoud High School in Berthoud, Colorado. Denison allegedly told authorities he had ended his employment with the Colorado high school on Nov. 1.