was an LDS church member in Benson, Cache County, Utah; accused of sexual abuse; convicted; served about 14 months in prison; attempted to serve a Mormon mission and was supported by his stake president, Jerry Toombs; his mission call was withdrawn

Case Summary

06/01/97 – Utah

LDS church member Shonn M. Ricks “was found guilty by a Salt Lake City jury of molesting a 6-year-old girl in February 1997. Citing Ricks’ severe heart condition, the judge reduced his two second-degree felony convictions to third-degree felonies, which carry a maximum sentence of five years rather than the 15 years he could have received.

Then when Ricks, a Mormon, came up for parole in a hearing last August, his friends, relatives and church leaders reportedly filled the room.

The reason: Mormon leaders contended that Ricks was sufficiently rehabilitated after less than two years in prison to receive a church “call” to a mission in Chile.” “The parole board chairman, also a Mormon pushed for the early release-which the full board later approved- and Ricks was freed over the objections of the victim’s father, who also is a Mormon.”

“Ricks remains free, although the church scrapped the mission assignment after a high-ranking Mormon official in Salt Lake City intervened.”

  1. Molester’s mission call withdrawn Benson man had served 14 months for 2 felonies
    view source details | 1 Apr 1999 | Deseret News
Sources excerpts
  • Molester’s mission call withdrawn Benson man had served 14 months for 2 felonies
    Source type: News article
    Publisher: Deseret News
    Date published/accessed: 1 Apr 1999
    archive 1 | archive 2

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has rescinded a mission assignment for a convicted child molester.

    Shonn M. Ricks, 23, of Benson, Cache County, served about 14 months in prison. He was freed by the Utah Board of Pardons last August after chairman Michael Sibbett quizzed him about his desire to serve a two-year religious mission and his understanding of Mormon principles.Supported by his stake president, Ricks subsequently received a mission assignment to Chile but had not yet reported to the Missionary Training Center in Provo.

    The assignment was revoked this week, The Salt Lake Tribune said in a copyright story.

    The LDS Church "does not call convicted child sex abusers on missions," the church told the newspaper. "In this case, normal procedures appear not to have been followed. The call has been withdrawn."

    The church officials "accepted and approved the (mission) application, and accompanying declaration of innocence, with only superficial research," the girl's father told the newspaper.

    According to the church's handbook of instructions, a prospective missionary who has been guilty of sexual misbehavior "or a serious violation of the civil law" requires a special clearance, and must be considered and endorsed by a high church leader before being accepted into the missionary program.

    Ricks had been found guilty by a jury after a two-day trial in February 1997. He maintained his innocence throughout the trial and prison term, during which he refused sex offender treatment.

    In October, Ricks' stake president, Jerry Toombs of Benson, sought the family's endorsement of a mission for Ricks. "(There) was a lot of thought and effort in trying to determine whether he should serve or not," Toombs said. "We've tried to be as sensitive as we can, especially for the family that was involved."

    The girl's father said he told Toombs he could not support the mission assignment. In March, the family was surprised to learn Ricks, as part of his requirement as a registered sex offender, had listed his address as the Missionary Training Center.

    The father contacted the Tribune and the training center. Last Sunday, he was visited by Area Authority Seventy Craig Vincent and John H. Groberg of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who had interviewed Ricks for his mission call.

    The victim's father felt he again was being asked to support the mission, and he repeated his objections.

    Ricks and his family declined to be interviewed. Toombs said Ricks "is disappointed. But (he and his family) will move along. They're a good, strong family."

    The investigation that led to Ricks began in January 1996 when the victim's parents contacted the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office. Their 6-year-old daughter said a man had invited her into a yard in her Taylorsville neighborhood to play with a dog and molested her.

    The jury found Ricks guilty of two second-degree felonies, which carry a potential prison term of one to 15 years.

    Third District Judge William Bohling, citing Ricks' health problems, reduced the convictions to third-degree felonies, which carry a prison term of zero to five years.

    At Ricks' parole hearing a year later, friends, family and ecclesiastical leaders filled the room,

    After questioning Ricks about the facts of the case, Sibbett turned the hearing to an examination of Ricks' religious beliefs.

    Ricks had told Sibbett he believed he would be sent on a mission as soon as he completed any parole, according to a tape of the hearing.

    A month later, the Board of Pardons decided to terminate Ricks' sentence, which meant he was not required to serve any time on parole.

    It is unusual for the board to release an untreated sex offender, but Ricks' crime was not as serious as the majority of the child sex abuse cases reviewed by the board, Sibbett said in an interview.

    "The highest issue we look at is risk to reoffend. We saw Mr. Ricks as an extremely low risk to society," he said.

Mormon Sexual Abuse Map

International map of locations where active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints perpetrated or allegedly perpetrated sexual abuse or other sex crimes, or where LDS leaders failed or allegedly failed to help abuse survivors.