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High school senior charged with sex crimes, including rape

Crime Watch

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POCATELLO — An 18-year-old Pocatello man has been charged with felony sex crimes involving three separate 15-year-old girls.

Following a months-long investigation, Zachary Michael Park was arrested earlier this week. He is accused of raping two underage girls and sexually abusing a third, according to charge documents. A fourth charge for lewd conduct with a minor under 16 has been dismissed.

The alleged sex crimes were first reported to police following a Sept. 25 party in Inkom. Bannock County Sheriff’s deputies were called to break up the party and ensure that all underage partygoers were released to their parents or guardians.

Following the party, the mother of a partygoer reported to deputies that her 15-year-old child had been raped. Court documents show the mother said her daughter did not know the name of the alleged perpetrator or what he was wearing but did say he was driving a small grey four-door vehicle, where the alleged rape occurred.

The mother was asked to take her daughter to Portneuf Medical Center, where a rape kit was performed.

While investigating, deputies spoke with a witness who indicated Park had raped the victim. Park was detained by officers for questioning.

He described taking the victim on a drive and eventually dropping her off at a party. Initially, he denied having any sexual contact with the girl.

Park reportedly told officers he was sexually active but had not had sex in several months. He claimed to have had sex with around 20 different partners, some younger than him, but that he always asked “multiple, multiple times” for consent.

He maintained he didn’t have sex with the victim until he was told DNA samples had been taken from her. One of the officers asked if there was any reason why his DNA would be found on the victim. Park then admitted to having sex with the girl inside the vehicle.

Park told officers that while having sex, the victim told him to stop. He said at first he continued having sex but she again told him to stop, this time shoving him away. He said he stopped, and the two got back into the front seat and went to the party.

Several days later, with officers present, counselors interviewed the victim. She told them she had been invited to a friend’s party but she did not have a ride. She said a friend arranged a ride for her.

When she told another friend that it was Park who would be providing her with a ride, court documents say the friend told others to find someone else to give the victim a ride. The friend allegedly told the victim that Park had demanded oral sex and nude photos from underage girls in order to give them rides in the past.

Detectives said in this case, oral sex was also negotiated in exchange for a ride to Inkom.

When the two arrived in Inkom, the victim said Park raped her in the backseat of the vehicle. He then walked into the party while she stayed outside and got dressed.

The victim told the interviewer that she initially did not want to tell anyone who had raped her, but while she was at the hospital she realized the likelihood that other victims existed.

She said that after telling a friend what had happened, the friend described something similar happening to her. Before the victim could tell her friend who was involved in her attack, her friend told the victim Park had been the one who attacked her.

On Nov. 2, officers spoke with another girl believed to be a victim at Irving Jr. High School.

That girl said Park demanded oral sex and nude photos in exchange for a ride.

On Dec. 7, officers spoke with the parents of another Pocatello High School student they believed was also an underage victim.

According to the affidavit, the girl’s mother said that the girl had been suffering from severe depression and had recently overdosed on drugs. The girl’s mother informed officers that she was in the process of getting mental health treatment for her daughter.

In an interview, another victim allegedly told a counselor that the alleged sexual assault between her and Park “wasn’t like in the movies.”

She described it as peer pressure, not being held down and physically raped.

“All I could think about was – I just want to go home,” she said according to the affidavit.

She told the interviewer that the assault took place around her birthday in 2020, but that she believed she had not yet turned 15 at the time.

Asked why she decided to tell the police about this incident now, nearly two years after it allegedly occurred, she said that she figured it was a big deal since two detectives pulled her out of class to talk about it. She said she didn’t want to talk about it before because she felt guilty, and that it was her fault.

Park was booked at Bannock County Jail Monday and released on $25,000 bond Wednesday. If he is found guilty, Park faces life in prison and fines up to $150,000. He is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 20.

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