Sexual assault suspect released based on incompetence verdict

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Wayne Ray Leas was arrested on Nov. 12 for the Nov. 6 sexual assault of a woman in the Rock Canyon area. BYU police said a timely warning notice about the incident didn’t go out until Nov. 12 because that’s when they found out the assault happened close to campus. (Utah County Jail)

The man involved in the Rock Canyon sexual assault last November was released from Utah County Jail on Jan. 17, jail and court records show.

Prosecuting attorney Doug Finch confirmed Wayne Ray Leas, 34, was determined to be incompetent, meaning he was unable to understand the charges brought against him and there is no substantial likelihood of rehabilitation. Finch added that Leas’ family is planning to return Leas to Montana where he’s originally from. There he will receive treatment through the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

When asked if the verdict was fair, Finch answered the court system is set up to help individuals with mental health problems who commit crimes.

Finch also said this kind of situation — where someone with a history of assault is released for incompetence — doesn’t happen as frequently as people might worry about.

“It’s all an individual basis situation,” he said. “That’s why they have the professional do these evaluations and go into their history and their capacity.”

A review hearing is set for July 11 under 4th District Court Judge Thomas Low, who also presided over the Jan. 17 hearing.

Leas was arrested and charged in the Nov. 6, 2017 incident with aggravated robbery and aggravated sexual assault, both first degree felonies. At the time of his arrest, The Daily Universe reported that Leas approached a woman in a public bathroom with a knife and demanded she undress. The woman called her hiking companion, and Leas fled.

BYU police detained Leas on Nov. 10 for trespassing with a knife near the BYU Central Utilities Heating and Cooling Plant, but he had not yet been identified as the suspect from the Nov. 6 incident. BYU police, however, took his name, date of birth and other information, and when Provo police released a suspect sketch the following day, BYU police notified them that they had detained someone who resembled the sketch. Leas was arrested on Nov. 12.

Court records show Leas has a criminal record extending back to 2002, with a range of charges including theft, trespassing and aggravated assault. They also show two separately filed, confidential competency evaluations, and lists Leas’ public defender as Michael S. Brown, who declined to comment. BYU Police and Provo Police have not responded to requests for comment about Leas’ release.

Sgt. Randy O’Hara with BYU Police teaches the Rape Aggression Defense course at BYU, a half-credit women’s self-defense class.

O’Hara said the class was developed 30 years ago and BYU picked it up a few years later. He said it differs from BYU’s regular self-defense course by focusing less on martial arts and more on escape and survival.

O’Hara, who’s been a Rape Aggression Defense instructor for 18 years, said it’s important that women learn how to protect themselves and not leave their protection to somebody else like a father or boyfriend.

“That somebody else can’t be there all the time, so it’s important for every individual to be able to protect themselves and not to have to rely on anybody else,” O’Hara said.

He also said a women’s best self-defense mechanism is her brain.

“Just be more aware and keep your own personal self-defense a priority in your own life,” O’Hara said.

Editor’s note: you can see the original story on Leas’s arrest here.

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