For Immediate Release
Contact: Michelle Bays
775.321.4307 (o); 775.771.6049 (c)
The Washoe County District Attorney’s Office has announced that a jury has convicted a Washoe County man of multiple counts of sexual assault on a child following a week long jury trial. The jury returned the verdict yesterday after deliberating for approximately six hours. Sentencing is set for January 30, 2018 in Washoe County District Court and the defendant faces life in prison.
Thomas Goepner, 61, from Washoe Valley was found guilty of 5 counts of Sexual Assault on a Child Under the Age of Fourteen Years, 3 counts of Sexual Assault on a Child Under the Age of Sixteen Years, 2 Counts of Sexual Assault and 1 count of Open and Gross Lewdness. Goepner was arrested on October 20th, 2016 following an investigation by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) Crimes Against Persons Unit. The investigation was submitted to this office where formal criminal charges were filed and the case proceeded to trial.
The case against Goepner began in October, 2016 when WCSO patrol deputies responded to a report of a sexual assault. When deputies arrived, they met with a 16 year old victim and several of her family and friends. The victim reported she had been sexually abused by Goepner since age 8 and that she had recently disclosed that abuse to others. Detectives responded and began an investigation in conjunction with the Washoe County Child Advocacy Center. Based on interviews with the victim and witnesses, as well as evidence collected from the defendant’s home, investigators determined that Goepner had been sexually assaulting the victim for over 8 years. During that time, Goepner forced the young victim to perform sexual acts on multiple occasions and threatened her so that she would not tell. Goepner was also convicted of having groped a second female victim. The investigation also revealed that Goepner was reported to have repeatedly sexually assaulted another child victim in the late 1980s. However, he was unable to be prosecuted because the crimes were reported after the statute of limitations that existed at the time in Nevada had run.
During trial, Deputy District Attorney Peg Samples argued that the jury had the power to permanently ensure Goepner could never abuse another child by returning guilty verdicts.
This prosecution was coordinated through the Washoe County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) multi-disciplinary team including authorities from the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, the Washoe County Child Abuse Response and Evaluation (CARES) team, Washoe County Social Services, and the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office. The CACs continuing mission is to safeguard the health and safety of children in our community who are victims of abuse through a neutral, child-centered environment. To date, over 1200 forensic interviews of children have been conducted. Since opening, over 90 life sentences have been imposed on sexual and physical abusers of children.