FBI seeking more victims in Havasupai sexual assault case
PHOENIX — The FBI said Thursday it was looking for more people who may have been sexually assaulted by a man offering sweat lodge ceremonies on the Havasupai Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon.
The agency arrested 53-year-old Fydel Jones in October after he allegedly assaulted a Canadian woman while conducting a ceremony for a wedding party. He also allegedly made unwelcome sexual contact with another woman.
According to the FBI, Jones offered to conduct a sweat lodge ceremony for a Canadian tourist and her friends in May when they traveled to the Havasupai reservation for a wedding ceremony. Once in a small mud hut, authorities say Jones sexually assaulted a woman by intentionally touching her directly and over her clothing without permission.
Jones, who lives in the small reservation village of Supai, performed two separate ceremonies for members of the wedding party, the FBI said. The agency said it has received reports that others might have been victimized under similar circumstances as far back as 2002, said FBI Special Agent Brian Fuller. He declined to elaborate but said the agency is mandated to identify victims and provide them resources.
“Because they were international tourists, we know a lot of people travel down to Havasupai, that’s why we put out the broad request,” he said.
Jones’ attorney, John Trebon, declined to talk about the criminal case but said he’s surprised the federal government is “trolling for victims” and did not notify him about it.
“I think it’s a dangerous practice,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re offering some sort of economic incentive to these people. My fear is that it could procure false claims.”
Jones was arrested and charged with seven counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of felony theft in October, but the FBI said there could be more victims. He pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial next year.
Jones has been released from custody but is under court order not to contact tourists or conduct sweat lodge ceremonies for anyone but his own family, according to court records.
Anyone with information about Jones was asked to fill out an online questionnaire or contact the FBI.
Havasupai attracts thousands of visitors per year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.