MONTROSE – A former Dolores County sheriff’s deputy has been arrested on suspicion of child sexual abuse involving five boys at various times over the past decade.
Joshua Hemphill, 25, of Montrose, was arrested last week. His bail was maintained at $250,000 at a hearing Thursday, court officials said.
Court records allege Hemphill sexually abused a 12-year-old boy he met through a mentoring program in 2014, a 13-year-old boy that he met at through a mentoring program event in 2016, even though he had been dismissed as a volunteer; and three other boys. Two of the boys reported being drugged and sexually assaulted. Officials suspect there might be other victims.
Hemphill’s case was assigned to public defender Patrick Crane. The agency does not comment on cases.
In July, a boy in South Dakota told his probation officer that Hemphill had sexually abused him in Colorado in 2014.
Hemphill was arrested last week for violating a restraining order that another family obtained to keep him away from their children, including a boy Hemphill met through a mentoring program event last year. The family reported that Hemphill contacted them to apologize and say he wanted to pay for the boy’s therapy.
Hemphill acknowledged having sexual contact with three other boys, with ages ranging from 9 to 15, dating to at least 2007, court records said. Hemphill said one of the cases involved the son of an Idaho woman he was dating while serving on a Mormon church mission.
Hemphill had worked for the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office as an alternative sentencing officer and a detention deputy from December 2014 to August 2016, when he was terminated. Mesa County’s public information officer, Megan Terlecky, would not disclose the reasons for Hemphill’s termination, but she said they were unrelated to the accusations and involved “nothing criminal in nature.” Hemphill worked for the Dolores County Sheriff’s Office from December 2016 to July, initially training as a patrol deputy, The Daily Sentinel reported. He had only been working as a patrol deputy for about four months, Dolores County Sheriff Jerry Martin said, when the Colorado Bureau of Investigation notified the office on July 16 that Hemphill was under investigation. Hemphill was put on administrative leave on July 17 and resigned on July 27, Martin said.
Martin said he was aware of Hemphill’s termination in Mesa County when he hired him, but he said his law enforcement record showed only minor policy violations such as tardiness, and a background check through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation turned up no criminal misconduct. The rookie deputy was well-known in the Dolores County community, having attended high school in Dove Creek, Martin said.
“I knew the kid from when he was young,” he said. “We decided to give him a chance.”
Martin said vacancies are tough to fill in his small office, so many new hires come “straight from the academy” with little previous work experience. He said he’s had to dismiss two deputies during his time as sheriff for allegedly committing alcohol-related offenses while off-duty, but this is the first time a deputy has been accused of such a serious felony.
“Being a law enforcement officer is difficult, because they’re human,” he said. “But this is on a whole different level. ... Sexual predators on juveniles are the highest priority for getting them away from society through the judicial system.”
Hemphill is expected to be in court on Sept. 28 to hear the formal charges against him, court officials said.
Journal reporter Stephanie Alderton contributed to this report.