Grand Canyon Park Employee Held in Alleged Rape of Co-Worker at North Rim

(UPDATED April 2017: The government dropped its sexual assault case against Jeremy Bird.

Bird pleaded guilty on April 6 to aiding and abetting a false statement to a government agency, a felony, for telling his friend to lie about the incident to investigators. The plea agreement calls for him to received five years of probation at his June 19 sentencing hearing in federal court. In return, the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office dropped all the other charges against Bird.)

An employee of the Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim faces a detention hearing this morning on a charge that he choked and raped another employee after a dorm party.

Jeremy Ean Bird has been held in detention since his August 11 arrest in connection with the assault, which occurred August 3-4. He was scheduled to appear at 10 a.m. today in Arizona U.S. District Court in Flagstaff.

The following account is based on the contents of the federal complaint, which was filed by U.S. Park Ranger Abigail Confer.

(Editor's note: The name of the alleged victim has been redacted from the complaint, as are the names of witnesses and other Forever Resort employees. The complaint does not list the city where Bird lives, nor that of the alleged victim, who for purposes of this story will be referred to as "Jane." In order to better protect Jane's identity, New Times has opted not to disclose her job title.)

Forever Resorts, the National Park Service concessionaire for the North Rim, advertises summer job opportunities by touting the superb view "with the canyon at your feet." Employees come from all over to work temporary jobs during the lodge's brief operating season, from May to October. Isolated at the North Rim, which has fewer facilities and far fewer visitors than the South Rim, workers live in dorm units, each with a dorm manager.

Jane began work at the Grand Canyon Lodge in mid-July. On the night of August 3, a Wednesday, she left work early and went to the lodge's saloon to meet a friend. When she came back to her dorm unit, she joined a get-together in the dorm's common area. There, she was introduced to Bird, who had arrived that day to begin work in housekeeping and had a friend who was already working at the lodge. They hit it off immediately.

Jane described Bird as white, six feet tall, 25 years old, with black hair, a five-o'clock-shadow and tattoos on both arms. He was passing around a 1.75-liter "handle" of Canadian whiskey. A friend gave Jane one mixed drink, and later she made another for herself.

At 10 p.m, one of the dorm managers shut down the party. At this point, Jane told Confer, she was tipsy and Bird was so drunk that she thought he needed to be helped back to his room. She said she'd done that previously for other drunk employees, in order to avoid getting caught by the rangers.

The partying continued in Bird's room. Bird's friend told Confer that he went to Bird's room after the party and found Bird and Jane there together, kissing and cuddling. He stayed for a while, then left at around 11:30, when Bird appeared to "nod off." The friend said he turned out the light when he left.

According to Jane, that's when the situation "turned bad."

Bird began groping her, telling her she was beautiful, and asking about her sexual history and experience. She told him she was shy. She was scared and thought he was being weird, but she was trying to be nice to him, she told Confer. He tried to pull off her top.

"I'm not that kind of person," she told him. He removed her shirt and bra. Jane "really wanted to get up and leave," Confer wrote. "She stated, 'I don't know what happened, but my body just froze.'" The victim "did not feel like she could leave because JB was being aggressive. JB was holding her down by the wrists. [Jane] felt 'little' and 'diminished.'"

Jane said Bird pushed her onto a bed with no sheets and sexually assaulted her, causing extreme pain. She struggled and they fell to the floor, where she hit her head. Confer noted that Jane became emotional while relating the story.

He became more violent, she told Confer. When she tried to scream, he grabbed her throat with his right hand and squeezed hard. "He moved his face close to hers and told her to be quiet," the report reads.

Jane "got light-headed, started 'seeing stars' and everything got blurry," Confer's report reads. She passed out for a moment.

Jane "thought that she might not wake up from this, that she might die," Confer wrote. She regained her awareness and felt him inside her, raping her. Jane "was wheezing and breathing rapidly and could not control it. She lost consciousness for a second time." 

He continued to assault her in various ways, she reported.

After the assault, Bird released Jane and went to the bathroom. She pulled on her underwear, grabbed her belongings, and fled. She wanted to call 911, but her cell phone didn't work (not uncommon in the remote location). She vomited.

After brushing her teeth and changing into clean clothes, she awakened her roommate and told her what had happened. She then went to the room of the dorm manager, who seemed "upset" at being roused. The manager told her to contact a ranger. Jane returned to her room, where she cried for a few hours and watched TV. In the morning, the dorm manager again instructed her to report the assault to the park service.

Jane said she walked to the human-resources office and asked a person there to call the park service, but the person refused. So she caught a shuttle bus to another area at the North Rim, where she found a ranger.

Jane was taken to the Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, Utah. On the way, in a ranger's patrol car, Jane began to feel intense pain and writhed in her seat. The ranger activated his lights and siren and sped to the hospital. The subsequent exam revealed genital trauma and evidence that she had been choked.

Bird's friend told Confer that on the morning after the alleged assault, Bird told him to lie about the previous evening if anyone asked about it: He was to say that he had left Bird's room with Jane after Bird fell asleep. The friend said he asked Bird what had really happened, and that Bird had told him he'd asked Jane for oral sex, but she refused and then left.

After being examined at the hospital and sitting for interviews with Confer and other rangers, Jane returned to her dorm at the lodge.

Confer and Special Agent Mike Hardin (whose agency is not identified) interviewed Bird on August 6.

Bird said he'd taken part in a "little dance party" in the common room, and that everyone was drinking. He said he and Jane cuddled in his room. He recalled that they kissed and that he'd fallen asleep. He denied firmly that he'd assaulted her.

"I have no knowledge of any sexual interaction with her other than kissing," he told the investigators. "JB thinks that [Jane] could have been assaulted after she left the room. JB thinks that this is the only type of crime that deserves the death penalty."

Bird also stated maybe someone could be given a second chance for this kind of crime. "I mean people can redeem themselves," he told Confer.

He said he hadn't instructed his friend to lie or told him that Jane had turned down his request for oral sex. He referred to Jane as a "pathological liar, a schizophrenic, and a drug dealer."

Told by Confer that the "current facts" indicated that he had assaulted Jane, Bird wondered aloud whether evidence could have been planted. Though he mused that it might be a good idea for him to consult an attorney, he did not follow through, and continued to talk.

Confer noted that when Bird was allowed to retrieve items from his dorm room, which had been sealed off for the investigation, he told another ranger that he only wanted to get his condoms, "just in case."

Court records show that Bird was arrested on August 11 and was ordered held until today's hearings.

New Times will update this story after the hearings.

The Grand Canyon Lodge is managed by Scottsdale-based Forever Resorts. According to its website, the company manages 65 vacation and entertainment properties near national parks and recreation land across the United States.

Navaz Ghaswala, executive vice president of Forever Living Products, a sister company of Forever Resorts, tells New Times the company is cooperating with law enforcement and has no further comment about the incident.

Asked about the general safety of employees in the company's dorm environments, Ghaswala says, "We're committed to providing a safe working environment for all employees."

UPDATE August 18, 2016: Jeremy Bird was indicted on Tuesday by a federal grand jury on eight counts related to the alleged attack. He is charged with assault with intent to commit aggravated sexual abuse, four counts of aggravated sexual abuse, and three counts of abusive sexual contact.

On Wednesday, Arizona U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Fine ordered that Bird be released on his own recognizance, with the stipulation that he remain at a relative's home when not at work, religious services, attorney visits, court appearances, or other required tasks. The relative's home is apparently located in the Western District of Texas; Bird may travel to and from home for legal proceedings.

His case is set tentatively for a jury trial in October. 
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.