2014 Staffing
Support Staff4

The Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division is comprised of a highly-trained and specialized team of Deputy District Attorneys, District Attorney Investigators, paralegals and secretaries who are all dedicated to aggressive and just prosecution of perpetrators of sexual assault and human trafficking crimes. Guided by Division Chief John Rice and Assistant Chief Kristen Spieler, the division strives to treat the victims of sexual assaults with compassion, dignity, and respect.

ht_poster_lgAttorneys and staff in this division handled a number of significant cases including prosecutions for sexually motivated homicide, sexual assaults by strangers, acquaintances or family members, lewd acts with children, non-domestic violence stalking, human trafficking, pimping, pandering, failing to properly register as sexual offenders, indecent exposure and civil commitments of sexually-violent predators.

We continue to see a rise in the prosecution of human trafficking, primarily in conjunction with pimping and pandering charges. Felons intent on profiting from this illicit business seduce vulnerable young women and minors into the underworld of prostitution throughout the county. The division not only prosecutes offenders, but it works with law enforcement and community-based organizations, which try to rehabilitate the victims and re-integrate them back into society.

The division is committed to protecting the community from sexually-violent predators through the pursuit of civil commitment petitions resulting in hospitalization and treatment of those offenders found to be a substantial danger to the public. The division works to keep the public safe and informed as sexually-violent predators reach the community treatment phase through community notification and public meetings.

Significant cases in 2014 included:

People v. Christopher Stevens
On December 21, 2012, a housekeeper working at a Midway area hotel was attacked by defendant in a room she was cleaning. The defendant, Christopher Stevens, held the victim down and began to pull off her clothes. When the victim fought back, the defendant hit her in the head with a hard object and began to smother her with a pillow. Stevens told the victim he would kill her if she did not stop screaming. During the ensuing sexual assault, he bound the victim with an electrical cord. He was later captured in the area and identified by both the victim and his DNA evidence left at the scene. On October 6, 2014, Stevens pleaded guilty to forcible rape and admitted allegations that the assault was committed during a burglary and that he inflicted great bodily injury upon the victim. He also admitted prior serious felony convictions that enhanced his sentence. On December 12, 2014, Stevens was sentenced to 65 years-to-life in state prison.

People v. Josh Churchill
On June 6, 2014, a 17-year-old karate student who was working in the 31-year-old defendant’s Poway karate studio, reported that he had engaged in a sexual relationship with her for the preceding three years. A security system installed in the studio by the defendant was seized and forensically examined. Several instances of the sexual encounters between victim and defendant were digitally recorded on the system. On September 17, 2014, Josh Churchill pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual conduct with the minor victim. On October 31, 2014, he was sentenced to four years and four months in state prison.

People v. Frank Shaw
On August 28th, 2012, neighbors found the body of the victim, face down in her bathtub. The autopsy revealed that she had been punched in the face several times and died from multiple stab wounds. Blood stains found in and around the apartment showed that the murder had taken place in the bedroom and that the killer had gone to great lengths to clean up the apartment. Evidence from the victim’s phone records established recent contact between the victim and defendant, Frank Shaw. Shaw’s DNA was found on the bathtub spout, in the bedroom and on kitchen cabinets from which blood stains had been cleaned. The defendant’s cell phone was tracked to show he was in the area of victim’s apartment for two hours on the night she died. He was convicted by a jury of first degree murder. On September 5th, 2014, Shaw was sentenced to 81 years-to-life in state prison.

People v. Richard Butts
In the early morning hours of August 25, 2012, a woman was walking home from a party in the Ocean Beach area of San Diego when she was approached from behind and punched in the side of the head. She was punched a second time and dragged behind a residence, where she was forcibly raped. The suspect fled on foot and was not identified, but DNA evidence was collected. In March of 2013, a second victim was walking home late at night within blocks of the same location. She too was grabbed from behind, dragged to the ground and sexually assaulted. When a passerby appeared, the victim screamed loudly causing the suspect to flee the scene. Butts was contacted nearby and positively identified by the victim and witnesses. DNA collected from the victims of both sexual assaults matched the defendant. On March 3, 2014, defendant pleaded guilty to both sexual assaults and multiple victim allegations. On April 17th, 2014, defendant was sentenced to 30 years-to-life in state prison.