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Girl tried for a year to get adults to listen to her story of lawmaker’s sexual abuse

Former Idaho Rep. Brandon Hixon’s legislative photo, left, and mugshot from an Ada County DUI arrest in December 2017.
Former Idaho Rep. Brandon Hixon’s legislative photo, left, and mugshot from an Ada County DUI arrest in December 2017.

A 10-year-old neighbor of Rep. Brandon Hixon’s tried for more than a year to get adults to listen to her concerns that Hixon “is a bad man.”

Some adults did the right thing. Others did not. And for that year she slipped through the cracks until finally, she became concerned that Hixon, who had started dating her friend’s mom, would molest her friend.

The girl went to her school’s counselor and resource officer, told them what Hixon had done to her, and said she did not want him to do that to her friend. The counselor and resource officer took action; within days, the Caldwell Police Department began an investigation.

That series of events is among the many allegations laid out in investigation records released Wednesday by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office. Hundreds of pages, compiled since spring 2017, suggest the former state lawmaker touched, abused or had sex with two young girls — one a young female relative — in repeated incidents across many years. They also establish that investigators and Hixon’s family worried he was a danger to himself long before his death by suicide in early January.

Investigators believed they had enough evidence to take the allegations to a grand jury. But the three-term Republican lawmaker was never officially indicted before his death.

It’s unknown how Hixon would have responded to the allegations once the matter moved to a courtroom. His attorney, Gabriel McCarthy, had not seen the new documents Wednesday, but said he was still bound to keep his conversations with his former client confidential and thus could not expand on Hixon’s defense.

If you are aware of abuse, neglect or someone in emotional crisis:

The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline: 208-398-HELP (4357)

Idaho Health and Welfare’s child abuse hotline: 855-552-KIDS (5437)

The WCA’s domestic violence crisis hotline: 208-343-7025

Investigation starts

While sitting in church one day in April 2016, the 10-year-old girl started crying. Her mother asked what was wrong: “Brandon Hixon is a bad man” and “touched her butt,” the girl said, according to investigators’ reports.

The girl’s mother was skeptical. She told investigators her daughter had been known to tell “stories.” The mother did not want to be “ruining someone’s life for a story,” so she took her daughter to a counselor to make sure she was not lying before making “a big deal of it,” records state.

The counselor contacted the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare on April 18, saying she had concerns about the child’s safety. Within a couple of days, a Health and Welfare employee talked to the child, who “started to tear up” when she told her Hixon touched her in places “he shouldn’t have,” according to the agency’s report on the visit.

When the Health and Welfare employee realized the criminal nature of the girl’s claims, she stopped the interview and contacted Caldwell police. She then also called the girl’s mother.

“I requested that she not talk to [redacted] about the allegations and that I would be forwarding this on to law enforcement for their assistance and guidance,” wrote Health and Welfare’s Shamona Spreadbury in her April 21, 2016, report. She wrote that she would be meeting with the mother the next day. Nothing in the report indicates whether that meeting took place.

Health and Welfare did contact law enforcement that day. But it’s unclear what action, if any, Caldwell police took. The detective who took the report was out of state Wednesday and couldn’t be reached to ask what he did with the report, Capt. Devon Riley told the Statesman. Records and interviews suggest the department didn’t know it had the report until the Statesman asked about it Wednesday.

And that is where the paper trail on the girl’s allegations against Hixon ended, until more than one year later.

On May 2, 2017, after learning her friend’s mom was dating Hixon, the girl went to her school counselor and resource officer “in tears” and told them Hixon molested her. According to investigation records, she said that she had already reported this in the past and “nothing happened.”

Again, a counselor told Health and Welfare of concerns that the girl had been molested by a male neighbor. The school resource officer, a Caldwell police officer, notified his department.

On June 6, the girl was interviewed at St. Luke’s CARES (Children at Risk Evaluation Services).

According to a probable cause affidavit, the girl said Hixon’s then-wife, Danielle, had been her babysitter since she was very young. She told the interviewer that while at the Hixon house, Brandon Hixon had inappropriately touched her on multiple occasions from the time she was in kindergarten until the second grade.

Danielle and Brandon Hixon had divorced in 2016, and Danielle moved to Boise. Caldwell police contacted her about the girl’s allegations; she said Brandon Hixon had told her not to answer questions, according to a police report. She did tell police she hadn’t seen any inappropriate behavior, though Brandon Hixon had acted strangely at times.

On Oct. 5, 2017, Danielle Eirvin Hixon asked a family member, an older teenaged female, if anything inappropriate had happened with Brandon Hixon. The girl “broke down in tears and said Brandon had touched her inappropriately” and had sexual intercourse with her, states the investigation report. The girl said the abuse began when she was 4 or 5 years old, and continued through Labor Day weekend 2017. And, the girl said, Brandon Hixon had threatened to harm another family member if she told anyone.

Danielle Eirvin Hixon called Boise police to file a report, prompting another St. Luke’s CARES interview.

Meanwhile, Caldwell investigators believed they had enough evidence to file an affidavit of probable cause for charges of lewd conduct with a minor and intimidating a witness. The latter charge regarded an Oct. 19 call from Brandon Hixon to Danielle during which he told her to “answer (a detective’s) questions favorably... and how you doing on money?” According to the affidavit, Brandon Hixon also said his attorney at the time warned him calling Danielle would be a felony.

Also on Oct. 19, Hixon resigned his House seat. One day later, police filed their affidavit.

On Oct. 25, authorities passed the investigation over to the AG’s Office after Canyon County Prosecutor Bryan Taylor cited a conflict of interest — Taylor knew Hixon personally from Taylor’s dealings with the Republican Party.

Broad interviews

The first hint to law enforcement that Brandon Hixon might be sexually abusing children actually came in 2014, when a relative contacted Caldwell police alleging Hixon inappropriately touched a 4-year-old girl. This child was not one of the two victims to come forward in the last year. A Caldwell police detective in December 2014 looked into the claim, but interviews with the young victim weren’t fruitful and charges were never brought.

When another relative confronted Hixon about the allegation, he started “screaming and yelling ... saying these kinds of accusations could ruin his political career,” according to the 2014 police report.

The AG’s investigation ended up covering a wide range of other topics. Among the files released Wednesday are references to odd financial practices by Brandon Hixon when he bought homes, and questions of whether he lied about paying another relative to work on his re-election campaign in 2014. Emails document House staff trying to get Hixon to return his state-issued laptop after his resignation. Hixon wrote that he had lost it; investigators recovered it after his death.

In another police interview, a juvenile girl said Hixon would fight with his ex-wife, punching holes in walls and doors. She told police that Hixon once called her in as a runaway after she left the house when Hixon pushed her down the stairs.

The girl told police that she once called law enforcement because Hixon was drunk and trying to leave during another fight. Caldwell police only had records of one call of a disturbance at that address, the documents state.

On Jan. 4, five days before Brandon Hixon died, authorities interviewed the father of the girl who first spoke of Hixon’s abuse in 2016.

The victim’s father shared a report he said he received from his own ex-wife: that the child said Hixon got into the bed when she was spending the night and touched her “inappropriately.”

The father said that in hindsight, he saw behavioral changes in the girl that were now concerning. She no longer wanted to visit Hixon’s home, he said, and made other changes to her routines to avoid going near it.

Allegations, arrests

A string of other allegations and arrests followed Brandon Hixon’s October retirement from the House, including the first public acknowledgment of the 2014 investigation.

Hixon was arrested twice on suspicion of driving under the influence, on Dec. 9 and Dec. 30. He was also charged with resisting arrest the first time, when police attempting to pull him over on westbound Interstate 84 claimed he refused to stop and exit his vehicle.

A Caldwell Police report included with the AG’s investigation says police arrived at Hixon’s home to find Hixon in the driveway of a neighbor’s house, having almost hit its door with his pickup. While there was an open beer in the pickup, a breathalyzer showed Hixon had no alcohol in his system. A drug influence expert with the department later concluded Hixon was under the influence of certain depressants; Hixon reportedly told police he was on a variety of anxiety, depression and sleep medications.

Caldwell police later followed up on a concern that Hixon tried to intimidate his neighbor over the incident, records show.

The day after Hixon’s death, Danielle Eirvin Hixon made the first public claims that her ex-husband had molested two girls. The Boise woman said she “had no idea it was happening.” Investigators at that point were unwilling to publicly confirm her claims.

Just this week, the Statesman reported Hixon was one of three men accused of harassing an 18-year-old House page during Idaho’s 2017 legislative session. The page reported unwanted flirting and non-sexual touching.

Danielle Eirvin Hixon said Wednesday she was relieved that the investigation records were out, so the public can now know “the truth.”

She confirmed the depiction of her ex-husband in many of the reports, saying he could be very aggressive, especially after he was elected to office.

“People can feel however they want to feel, however they don’t know the real person,” she said about Brandon Hixon. “They didn’t know who he was when he went home.”

Suicide risk

Brandon Hixon died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at his Caldwell home on Jan. 9, the day before certain witnesses were slated to testify before the grand jury.

His death shocked his former colleagues at the Legislature, who released statements of sympathy for his family and said they planned to offer the family some sort of financial support. House Speaker Scott Bedke later told the Spokesman-Review that no public money would be used for that.

Meanwhile, Danielle Eirvin Hixon dubbed him a “coward.” She told the Statesman she later received a card with condolences from a group of lawmakers’ wives. “I really do appreciate that,” she said.

Brandon Hixon had attempted suicide three other times in the recent past, according to the Caldwell police report on his death.

Tony Pittz, a senior investigator in the AG’s Office, wrote McCarthy, Brandon Hixon’s attorney, on Nov. 9, warning of evidence that “your client might possibly be a danger to himself.” McCarthy replied that he was aware of the same information and was about to meet with Hixon and certain family members to create a safety plan.

Wednesday, McCarthy told the Statesman he knew that Hixon was struggling because in alleged crimes of this nature, “the court of public opinion is going to convict him.”

“Emotionally, he was in crisis,” McCarthy said. “His family and myself did everything we possibly could to help him.”

The morning of Hixon’s Jan. 9 suicide, he woke up a family member who was staying with him, at about 5:40 a.m., and said to call other family members over to the home, according to the police report.

“(The family member) told me Brandon said, ‘remember I love you.’ Brandon then exited (his) room,” a Caldwell officer wrote. “(The family member) said he started getting dressed when he heard ‘it’ meaning the gunshot.”

According to the report, when the family member went upstairs, Hixon’s bedroom door was locked. The family member then grabbed a butter knife to unlock the door; he opened it to find Hixon dead.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

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