Registered sex offender accused of fondling mentally disabled woman in Publix breakroom

John Utterback in his Orange County mugshot
John Utterback in his Orange County mugshot

A Publix employee who has been a registered sex offender for 19 years has been arrested on an accusation he molested a mentally disabled woman who was a co-worker in the Publix breakroom.

Apopka resident John Utterback, 62, has been fired from an Orange County Publix after his Tuesday night arrest on two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation on a disabled person. His bond is $10,150.

Publix’s corporate statement on the situation says: “Publix takes this situation very seriously and upon learning about the allegations, we immediately investigated this matter and can confirm that Mr. Utterback is no longer employed with Publix Super Markets. Publix does perform pre-employment background checks to protect the safety and well-being of our associates and customers, and like many employers, our background screening processes have evolved over the past decade. We will continue to work with local law enforcement and fully support them throughout this investigation.”

According to Palm Beach County court records, Utterback pleaded guilty in 1999 to three counts of sexual battery on a person less than 12 years of age. The crimes happened in 1982, when he was 26. He received 15 years probation on each count.

An Orange County Sheriff’s Office arrest report says the alleged victim’s mother told Detective Margaret Keltz that her daughter had the educational understanding of a second grader and “is unable to comprehend situations in order to make her own decisions.”

Even before that, the detective approached the alleged victim Tuesday afternoon almost as she would a child.

“Before speaking on the allegation, I attempted to qualify that (the alleged victim) understood the difference between a truth and a lie,” Keltz wrote. “(She) was unable to understand, explain or identify the difference. (She) was able to correct me if what I repeated back to her was incorrect.

“I was immediately able to identify that (she) is mentally disabled and often had to repeat or clarify my questions to her.”

The young woman told Keltz while she was on break in that Publix’s breakroom, “Utterback touched her “boobs” and “toti” over her clothing with his hand.”

She said she told Utterback to stop, but he didn’t until another co-worker entered the break room. When that person left, she said, he resumed touching her. She told a coworker who told the woman’s mother and a supervisor at Publix.