Man sexually abused mentally disabled woman
May 19, 2009
Judge Bruce Lubeck has sentenced a Midway man to between 1 and 15 years in state prison in a sexual-abuse case stemming from an illicit relationship he briefly had with a mentally disabled woman he worked with at a Park City grocery store.
Dale Heckel, who is 32 years old, in March pleaded guilty to a second-degree felony count of forcible sexual abuse. Two related charges were dismissed. He was transferred to the Utah State Prison in Draper on May 13, two days after the judge sentenced him.
According to a court filing outlining the prosecution’s case, Heckel had three illicit encounters with the woman between Feb. 4 and Feb. 13, starting with one after he offered to give the woman a ride home from work and took her to a dark parking lot in Prospector.
The others — occurring in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Summit County and in another apartment complex’s parking lot inside Park City — occurred while driving her home, the prosecutors said.
The Park City Police Department received a report the day after the last encounter.
"It’s quite frightening. People need to, if something happens, stand up and say something," the woman’s mother said.
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The Park Record normally does not publish the names of victims in sex cases or those of family members whose names could identify the victim.
The mother said the woman is 27 years old but typically functions with the mental capacity of a person between 10 and 12 years old. The family lives in Park City. The mother said she supports the sentence rendered by the judge.
Heckel and the woman worked together at the grocery store. The mother said the woman got the job more than five years ago and co-workers tend to look out for her interests.
"She’s a productive member of society. She works. She pays her bills," the mother said.
Prosecutors indicated Heckel was aware of the woman’s mental disability. He told investigators he was under the impression she had the capacity of a 7-year-old or 8-year old.
The owner of the grocery store said Heckel resigned last winter as a result of the case against him. The owner declined to comment further.
Paul Quinlan, the public defender who represented Heckel, said the man acknowledged what occurred.
"He didn’t deny any of the charges and accepted full responsibility," Quinlan said, adding, "He went to prison because of the aggravating nature of the offense. He knew the young lady was developmentally disabled."
Joy Natale, the lead prosecutor in the case, said the victim told her sister about the relationship she had with Heckel. The sister contacted the Police Department, Natale said.
"I think he’s dangerous in the sense he would take advantage of someone who has limited abilities," Natale said.