WATSONVILLE — The baffling child sex abuse case against a doctor and two nurses was launched on May 9 when an unnamed witness brought a video to Watsonville Police Department that showed three adults engaged in sex acts with children as young as three.
In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Watsonville Police Chief David Honda outlined the ongoing investigation of neurosurgeon James Kohut, 57, and nurses Rashel Brandon, 42, and Emily Stephens, 29.
Kohut Brandon Stephens
Authorities have taken seven children into protective custody, ranging from 3 to 13.
According to Watsonville Police Capt. Jorge Zamora, the video, which was filmed in a Scotts Valley motel room, was the first piece of evidence in the case and allowed investigators to identify Brandon and Stephens.
Brandon was arrested at her Watsonville residence on May 9. She is in custody at Santa Cruz County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Stephens was arrested at her residence in Pima County, Ariz. on May 12. She is being held without bail there. She has denied the charges and plans to fight extradition, which is normally a 90-day process.
Watsonville Police investigators worked with the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force to identify Kohut. He was arrested May 14 at his residence in the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor.
Brandon was a nurse who worked in Dominican Hospital. Stephens was described as a traveling nurse who lived in Tucson, Ariz.
Kohut was a traveling doctor with a primary residence in Arkansas. In addition to his Santa Cruz residence, he is also associated with one in Tucson, where Stephens lived.
Authorities have seized multiple items of evidence at those residences, Zamora said.
"We’re still working with the FBI and ICAC and our detectives to review all the evidence,” Zamora said.
It is still unclear how the three knew each other, and police have declined to comment on the matter.
In a prepared statement, however, police hinted at a relationship.
“Based on the evidence we have, at this time, we believe these individuals were working together,” the statement said.
Also left unanswered was how the three knew the victims. Zamora declined to comment, citing privacy for them.
While authorities believe they have all the suspects in custody and identified all the victims, it is still possible there are more victims, Zamora said.
“It’s a huge concern,” he said. “In this case and any other case, that’s why we cannot stress enough that if there are other victims or if anyone knows any victims that they come forward.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Watsonville Police Detective Naim Figueroa at 768-3355, or email [email protected] They may also call the anonymous tip line at 768-3544 or the non-emergency dispatch number at 471-1151.