was an LDS church member in or near Cedar City, Utah and Bunkerville, Nevada; accused in Utah in 2023 of sexual abuse of two young girls; pleaded guilty to one count of sodomy on a child; sentenced in June 2023 to 25 years to life in prison

Case Summary

Michael Lister (Mike Lister) was a Mormon church member in southwestern Utah (Iron County) and southeastern Nevada (Bunkerville area).

In 2023, Lister was accused of sexually abusing two young girls.

In June 2023, Lister was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to one felony count of sodomy upon a child.

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From St. George News on 2023-06-24:

“CEDAR CITY — A 62-year-old Iron County man was sentenced on Tuesday to a minimum of 25 years in prison for sexually molesting a child.
Iron County Jail mugshot of Michael Lister, Cedar City, Utah, April 2023 | Image courtesy of Iron County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News / Cedar City News

Michael J. Lister had previously pleaded guilty to one count of sodomy on a child, a first degree felony, and was sentenced on Tuesday by 5th District Judge Matthew L. Bell.

Lister will be 87 years old at the time his sentence ends, in June 2048. He could be incarcerated even longer, Bell said, noting, “It is this court’s recommendation that you remain in prison without an opportunity for parole. Ultimately, that will be up to the Board of Pardons.”

Lister, who has been incarcerated in Iron County Jail since his arrest on April 7, was ordered to be transferred immediately to Utah State Prison.

According to the probable cause statement filed in support of his arrest, Lister was accused of sexually abusing two youth relatives at his Cedar City home in March 2021.

He initially faced eight charges, four of which were first-degree felonies — two counts of sodomy on a child and two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. Additionally, he faced two counts of dealing harmful materials to a minor, a third-degree felony and two counts of lewdness involving a child, a class A misdemeanor.

In May, when Lister pleaded guilty to one of the sodomy counts, he wasn’t charged on any of the remaining counts, in accordance with the terms of the plea agreement. During an emotional 45-minute hearing, Lister’s wife and two of his children addressed the court asking for a lesser sentence.

Lister’s wife of 33 years said she was in the house the night of the 2021 incident. She told the court, “I remember he looked like he wasn’t all there because he had taken Ambien to be able to get to sleep. I do think it was a factor in the choices that he made and that it did affect his thinking.”
Defendant Michael Lister and attorney Matt Munson arrives for Lister’s sentencing hearing in 5th District Court, Cedar City, Utah, June 20, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

She continued by stating that Lister has promised “he won’t give up and will do whatever it takes to make things right, including therapy so we can be together again.”

Defense attorney Matt Munson addressed the court next, saying, “It’s just been tough to watch the pain this has caused to all of them. And to know that it’s not going go away, and probably won’t for the rest of their lives.”

Munson noted Lister voluntarily entered into a plea agreement to spare his family members from court proceedings and a trial.

When Lister addressed the court, he offered apologies to his victims.

“I have lost your trust,” he said. “And I will do everything I can for the rest of my life, which is not much left, to gain it back.”

Lister also alleged the prescription sleeping pill was taking clouded his judgment, but added, “But I am still responsible for what has happened to my family.”

Lister finished his seven-minute sermon by speaking of his reputation for serving others, also mentioned earlier by his wife and children.

“I won’t have the opportunity to serve as I used to have,” he said. “I have enjoyed serving the Lord all my life and seeing the needs for others and acting upon it.”

Prosecutor David Hill then read a letter from another one of Lister’s children who wanted to make a statement to the court.

After outlining the anguish Lister had caused that person’s family, Hill said, reading from the letter:

My father has recently set an example of humility for all of us. He admitted his mistake and turned himself in. My father taught me you might use the importance of our Savior’s plan and repentance. I know, although the future looks grim, he will still make the best of it and endure to the end by going through the long repentance process before him. I respect him for that.

The statement concluded with the the author writing that they had learned to forgive Lister.

“Whatever the outcome of the sentencing is, I want there to be hope and most importantly help for him,” the letter concluded.

An adult woman who said that she also had been sexually abused by Lister years ago, when she was around 6 years old, also spoke to the judge about her anguish.

“I spent thousands of dollars and hours in therapy dealing with the triggers and trauma as a result of being sexually abused,” the woman told the court. “As a young girl, I knew I was different. I knew I was weird. I was the keeper of a secret I could tell no one without fear of judgment or rejection.”

She then added:

Mike’s grotesque violations traumatized not only his victims, but all of those close to or associated with him and his victims. He preyed on young girls that loved and trusted him. He violated us with no regard as to how it would destroy our relationships, cause PTSD, interfere with our sexuality and shatter our self-image. I plead with you to ensure that justice is served for the safety of all young women and girls in your community, and for the solace and peace a prison sentence may bring to his victims.

Hill closed with a few remarks, saying Lister’s attempts to blame his behavior on the sleeping pill are “belied by the fact that there was indication that this happened multiple times.”
Defendant Michael Lister and attorney Matt Munson arrives for Lister’s sentencing hearing in 5th District Court, Cedar City, Utah, June 20, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Hill then asked the court to impose the maximum sentence as allowed by state statute. Bell did so, agreeing with the state’s recommendation.

“I just wanted to say that there are cases that come before the court where there are no winners and this is one of them,” Bell said.

Bell took issue with an earlier comment Lister had made saying he was unaware of the trauma his victims were going through.

“You had some idea,” Bell told Lister. “Your statement in the pre-sentence report, the first thing you say, ‘It can last a lifetime. I know. I was abused as a boy.’ So to sit here and repeatedly tell the court you had no idea is nonsense.”

Bell also noted Lister’s apology to the woman who “had gone through all this.”

“An appropriate apology would be to be sorry for what you did to her,” Bell said.

“You did do the right thing by pleading guilty and sparing your victims additional trauma and not making the vast crater you’ve left in a number of lives any deeper,” Bell continued. “But still, you’ve deflected or minimized your personal responsibility … Justice demands a heavy price for those actions, your victims have already and will continue to pay a heavy price.”

Bell then spoke of Lister’s victims, saying, “It’s my sincere hope that they will realize just how strong they are and how their pain and their stolen innocence does not have to define them.”

Bell then handed down the sentence of at least 25 years in prison. The court did not impose any fines or fees but did leave restitution open should funds become available for the victims.

Following the sentencing, prosecutor Hill provided the following written statement to Cedar City News:

Michael Lister was sentenced to prison for a term of 25 years to life for the crime of sodomy on a child. The impact of crimes like this on children is impossible to calculate. His actions have irreversibly altered the lives of each of his victims and also has a huge impact on those close to them. The Iron County Attorney’s Office is hopeful that this resolution will bring some closure and healing to those involved while also protecting additional members of our community.

Iron County Attorney Chad Dotson expressed his appreciation for Utah Division of Child and Family Services, Enoch Police Detective Dustin Roy and victim advocates for their assistance in the case.
Fifth District Courthouse, Cedar City, Utah, April 15, 2021 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“I am proud of the hard work and dedication of the team at the Iron County Attorney’s Office to protect children in our community,” Dotson. “These cases are difficult for so many reasons. The heartbreaking effect they have on the young victims being chief among them.”

Munson, defense attorney for Lister, also provided a written statement to Cedar City News.

“We are grateful for the deliberate and methodical manner in which the Court worked through what was a very difficult sentencing hearing for all involved, given the nature of the crimes committed and the ages of the victims, among other things,” he said. “Though the mandatory 25 years-to-life sentence rendered by the Court likely means that Mr. Lister will spend the rest of his life in jail, Mr. Lister acknowledges and accepts that his regrettable actions warrant such a sentence.”

Munson also told Cedar City News it takes a lot of strength for victims of child abuse to come forward and speak about it with adults.

I very much admire the bravery and courage of the victims that came forward to share their experiences, and I hope and pray that these victims, some of whom are very young, and their families, will have the strength and resolve work through and resolve all of the unspeakable hardships they have and will continue to be faced with, as a result of the trauma, pain and anguish that they have experienced.”

Sources
  1. 62-year-old Iron County man sentenced to at least 25 years in prison for child sex abuse
    view source details | 24 Jun 2023 | St. George News
Sources excerpts

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.