Utah GOP activist charged with rape found dead

October 23, 2012 - 11:33 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Republican activist charged with raping five women apparently committed suicide Tuesday at the Heber cabin where the crimes allegedly took place, sheriff's officials said.

Two bail bond agents were dispatched to the cabin Tuesday to check on Gregory Nathan Peterson because his ankle monitor was not responding, Wasatch County Sheriff Todd Bonner said.

Peterson, 37, had been out on bail since Oct. 19 on multiple charges of rape, assault and kidnapping. He was to stand trial on 23 felony charges and two misdemeanor counts.

The men found Peterson's body in an upstairs bedroom, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Chief Deputy Jared Rigby confirmed that Peterson was found with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A medical examiner's final determination on a cause of death will come after an autopsy Wednesday.

Peterson's attorney had been trying to contact him but he was not responding, Bonner said. Bonner said he didn't know if Peterson had left behind a suicide note.

Four women from Salt Lake County and one from Wasatch County testified at a hearing in August that Peterson sexually assaulted them at his cabin. The women said Peterson fondled them over their clothing without consent.

He's accused of meeting them on Mormon dating websites and at church functions.

Peterson, a certified public accountant and the owner of Peterson Wealth Management, has been a fixture at Utah Republican gatherings. He helped organize the Rocky Mountain Conservatives Convention and Barbecue two years ago at the cabin. Prominent Utah politicians hosted by Peterson include U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, Gov. Gary Herbert, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz and others.

While Peterson has been involved in state politics and events, Utah Republican Chairman Thomas Wright has said he never held a leadership role or raised or donated money for the state party. Some considered Peterson a self-styled tea party operative.