BILLINGS, Mont. – A Montana man could face up to life in prison when he goes before a judge Tuesday on charges that he kidnapped and sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl before abandoning her in the Wyoming wilderness.
Jesse Paul Speer of Manhattan, Mont., is scheduled to change his not guilty plea and be sentenced during an afternoon hearing before Judge Steven Cranfill in Park County, Wyo.
Authorities say that in October, 2012, the 40-year-old Speer encountered the young girl outside the Cody city government building and tricked her into accompanying him by saying he was looking for a lost puppy.
When the girl tried to change her mind, Speer pulled a gun on her, made her get into his SUV, drove to a remote area and sexually assaulted her, according to court documents.
A pair of hunters later found the victim wandering at night along a rural road in a mountainous area about 20 miles southeast of Cody. The abduction shocked residents of the tourist town of fewer than 10,000 people that serves as the eastern gateway to Yellowstone National Park.
Speer, a nature photographer who previously lived in Colorado with his former wife, was arrested by FBI agents less than a week later, after he had returned to Montana. Investigators tracked him down by piecing together the victim’s statement with video footage from the Cody area to determine the license plate number on Speer’s SUV.
Court documents indicate the defendant admitted to the kidnapping during a tearful confession in which Speer told investigators he had a prior addiction to pornography but “did not know why” he assaulted the girl.
Speer has two children of his own from his prior marriage, which ended in divorce in 2010. After his arrest, a Montana judge gave Speer’s former wife full custody of the children, now 9 and 5 years old.
Charges against Speer include kidnapping, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and sexual assault.
Speer’s attorney, J. Travis Smith, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.