DENVER (AP) — Nothing in the short and promising Army career of 1st Lt. Aaron G. Lucas seemed to foreshadow the trouble he now faces in civilian court in Colorado.
Just 5½ years after joining the Army Reserve, Lucas became a commissioned officer in field artillery at Fort Carson, a prized Army posting at the foot of the Rocky Mountains near Colorado Springs.
He served briefly in the Alabama National Guard, transferred to active duty in 2009, learned to parachute, took three commander and leadership courses, served in Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star.
But police and prosecutors say there’s another side to the 31-year-old married father of two. He was arrested in October on suspicion of sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, kidnapping, enticement and indecent exposure in communities surrounding Fort Carson.
Lucas faces 23 charges involving sex crimes against girls that could put him in prison for more than 100 years if he’s convicted on every count. He has not entered a plea, and his lawyer did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Colorado’s 4th Judicial District declined to release an arrest warrant affidavit and charge sheet for Lucas, saying the documents have been sealed by the court.
The crimes Lucas is accused of date back nearly 2½ years, almost half the span of his stint in the Army. But investigators didn’t zero in on him until recently.
Scott Gilbertsen, a police sergeant in the town of Fountain just across Interstate 25 from Fort Carson, had been studying unsolved child enticement reports since July. He had three reports at the start, and young girls in each case gave similar descriptions of a male suspect.
Then came more reports, until Gilbertsen had nine cases.
“It was staring me in the face. I knew with all my heart it was the same person,” Gilbertsen said.
In late September, Gilbertsen gave Fountain officers a description of the suspect and his vehicle and appealed to the public for help. Days later, Fountain officer Tommy Coates was patrolling near a school when he spotted a man and a vehicle matching the descriptions.
Coates followed the man to a convenience store, chatted with him and took down his name — Aaron Gregory Lucas. Coates then reported to Gilbertsen.
Gilbertsen said he showed photos of Lucas and other people to some of the girls, who identified Lucas as the man they had seen.
As Gilbertsen was closing in on Lucas, he heard from a detective in nearby Colorado Springs who had also begun to look at Lucas in connection with similar crimes. They invited the sheriff’s department of El Paso County, which encompasses both towns, to form a task force.
Together, they named Lucas their suspect in 14 incidents.
Police said two of those incidents occurred in Colorado Springs in June 2010. They resulted in charges of aggravated sexual assault on a child, enticement and indecent exposure.
Fountain police said 10 incidents occurred in their town between November 2011 and August 2012. Lucas faces charges of attempted sexual assault on a child, child enticement and indecent exposure stemming from those cases.
Sheriff’s deputies cited two incidents, both in neighborhoods in an unincorporated part of El Paso County near Fort Carson: A 9-year-old girl was abducted and released in June, and a 7-year-old girl escaped when someone made a sexual reference and tried to take her hand in October. That led to charges of kidnapping, attempted sexual assault on a child and enticement.
With the help of Army officials, Lucas was arrested at Fort Carson on Oct. 23.
Court records show Lucas was free on $730,000 bond. An Army spokesman said he is back on duty at Fort Carson and that officials are taking “legal and prudent measures” to ensure public safety. The spokesman did not elaborate.
The Army lists Huntsville, Ala., as Lucas’ hometown. Deputies in Madison County, which encompasses Huntsville, told that city’s WAFF television station that they had been in contact with Fort Carson about unsolved incidents of enticement and indecent exposure in Alabama. Madison County authorities did not return repeated phone calls from The Associated Press.
Investigators in eight jurisdictions in Alabama, South Carolina and Texas where Lucas lived previously either said they had no records on Lucas or didn’t return phone calls.
Gilbertsen credited the young girls for bringing the investigation to a quick end.
“These little girls are the ones who looked this guy in the face and remembered his face,” he said. “A lot of the credit has to go to them.”
By Dan Elliott, AP Writer (© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)