SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. -- Tyler Kost, the 18-year-old arrested twice in the past several days on suspicion of multiple sexual assaults, is facing 25 new charges.
"This is a serious and serial sex offender and rapist," Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said at a news conference Friday morning.
Investigators say Kost, a student at Poston Butte High School, allegedly harassed and threatened his victims. One girl reportedly became suicidal. Others withdrew from school and two went so far as to leave the state to escape Kost.
Deputies first arrested Kost on Monday. Although the prosecutor asked for a bond of $100,000, Superior Court Judge Larry Wharton set it at $10,000, which means Kost only had to come up with 10 percent -- $1,000.
"That's not a very high threshold for somebody who has this extent of allegations of criminal wrongdoing," Babeu said.
Kost posted bond and was subsequently released.
"Detectives knew the community was in danger and worked around the clock investigating all of the sex crime cases, including five additional cases which were reported after this case originally aired by the media," Pinal County Sheriff's Office spokesman Tim Gaffney wrote in a news release.
Deputies re-arrested Kost, legally an adult at 18 years old, Thursday.
Kost was booked on a total of 25 charges.
- 7 counts of sexual conduct with a minor (dangerous crime against children under 15)
- 3 counts of sexual abuse (dangerous crime against children under 15)
- 7 counts of sexual assault
- 7 counts of sexual conduct with a minor
- 1 count of sexual abuse
"These are all additional counts," Babeu said.
Kost made his initial appearance before a judge on these new counts Friday morning. The judge ordered him to be held without bond.
Kost's attorney told the judge that he is extremely concerned about Babeu's behavior in the case and how it impacts the court and Kost's rights to due process and a fair trial.
"The sheriff has also repeatedly attacked my client by setting himself up as the judge and jury in this case," Kost's attorney told the judge.
Kost's attorney asked the judge to remove the Pinal County Sheriff's Office from the investigation and place a gag order on the sheriff's office. He also requested a change of venue for all further proceedings.
The judge said he couldn't address the requests at this time and told the attorney to bring them up if and when Kost is formally charged.
Babeu confirmed that there are 18 alleged victims, one just 13 years old, going back to 2011. He said he believes there are more.
"As recent as from February to the present, there were five incidents alone with three separate victims," Babeu said.
At this point, the oldest of Kost's alleged victims is 17, which means all of them are minors.
"In every one of these incidents that we're aware of at this point, Tyler was somebody who was known, who was befriended, who was trusted by not only the victims, but by the families," Babeu said. "He was, from all of the accounts of the victims, somebody who was highly manipulative, very charismatic and charming ... and then things obviously turned."
While detectives believe Kost went to school with most of the girls he is accused of assaulting, Babeu said none of the crimes took place on school grounds or at school functions.
Kost reportedly has been studying online at home for the past several months after claiming that several girls had been bullying him. A school investigation found no evidence to support his allegations.
Babeu said a student approached his office about Kost in March.
"That's how we learned of this and then it just started to spiderweb in many directions," he explained. "The initial report said there were five potential victims. That rapidly expanded."
Now there are at least 18.
Babeu said the trauma and the "subsequent threatening and intimidating" kept the girls and their families from coming forward.
"Victims, sometimes it takes an entire lifetime for them to deal with this kind of trauma because it's not just physical. It's emotional. It's psychological. It's even spiritual," Babeu said. "To have this many victims come forward at this point, reason stands that we'll have a number of other victims and witnesses that will likely come forward."
Babeu said his department wants to create a safe, understanding and nonjudgmental environment for Kost's alleged victims and their families.
"We want to tell the victims that it is not their fault," he said. "We want to let all these victims know they're not alone. ... We want to get them help, even if they don't support us in our criminal prosecution."
Dr. Amy Fuller, the Florence Unified School District superintendent, said the school board will do whatever it can to help the alleged victims.
"Our commitment is to the victims," she said. "We are going to do everything we can.
"Serial rapist Tyler Kost was a predator who threatened, harassed, stalked and then either forcibly sexually abused or sexually assaulted his victims," Babeu said. "Over 80 percent of female victims who are sexually assaulted or raped never report the crime to law enforcement. Once this case was initially reported, many victims have come forward. These young women have said, enough is enough and thanks to their courage, Tyler Kost is now behind bars where he can no longer continue to inflict pain on his victims.”
Anyone with any information about these cases is asked to contact PCSO detectives at 520-866-5161 or 1-800-420-8689.