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Snyderville Basin man convicted of raping woman during massage

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A Snyderville Basin man was convicted of multiple first-degree felonies for raping a woman during a massage last year.

Merga Kennard, a 35-year-old man whose last known address was in the Snyderville Basin, was convicted of raping a woman who visited an establishment where he provided a massage.

According to charging documents, the woman went to the establishment in Summit County last April, where she disrobed and lay on a table to receive a massage from Kennard. The court documents say he penetrated her multiple times without her consent and touched her inappropriately.

On Thursday, a jury convicted Kennard of two first-degree felony counts of rape, two first-degree felony counts of object rape and one second-degree felony count of forcible sexual abuse.

Kennard’s attorney, Jarom Bangerter, said they are disappointed with the verdict.

"It was a difficult case and the lack of forensic evidence in this case was something my client focused on heavily in his defense,” Bangerter said.

Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson declined to comment about the conviction.

Sentencing is scheduled Aug. 1. First-degree felonies carry sentences of five years to life in prison.

Kennard is also facing a second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse charge for another massage-related incident last March. He has pleaded not guilty, and Bangerter said Kennard denies those allegations.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.