Authorities say James Kohut -- who was accused, among other acts, of soliciting mothers to engage in sexual acts with children -- was alone in his cell

By Chris Harris
October 14, 2019 10:56 AM
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Credit: Santa Cruz County Jail

Authorities are investigating the sudden death of a California neurosurgeon who allegedly sexually abused several children and fantasized about creating “sexual families” by impregnating women and their daughters so he could then molest his offspring.

It is believed that disgraced brain surgeon James Kohut, 59, took his own life on Sunday morning inside his jail cell, according to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s office.

Kohut was awaiting trial on dozens of child sexual abuse counts. PEOPLE was unable to ascertain when his trial was set to begin.

Kohut had been in custody since his arrest in May 2017.

Authorities confirm Kohut did not share a cell with any other inmates, and was seen alive not long before corrections officers found his body.

An autopsy will be performed on his remains later this week to determine an exact cause of death.

Kohut was informed two years ago that he would face additional criminal charges following detectives’ discovery of video evidence allegedly showing him abusing two boys and a girl.

Kohut and two nurses — Rashel Brandon, 44, and an Arizona woman, Emily Stephens, 31, who was Kohut’s girlfriend — were arrested in 2017 on suspicion of running a child-sex ring.

Both women were charged with four counts of child sexual abuse, with Kohut originally facing 11. All told, he was charged with 48 counts.

His medical license was revoked a month after his arrest.

Kohut, like Brandon and Stephens, pleaded not guilty to the charges. Both women are awaiting trial and face multiple felony counts.

The charges against Kohut included alleged abuse that authorities contend occurred in 2003, 2014, 2016 and 2017. His lawyer could not be reached.

Prosecutors in court documents alleged that, “for nearly 20 years,” the traveling surgeon displayed “a sexual compulsion, and has solicited victims for decades.”

The state also alleged the “defendant was soliciting mothers to engage in sexual acts with children.”

Among the examples cited, the prosecution referred to a Vermont woman who said she had a relationship with Kohut from 1997 to 2000. “During that relationship, he told her that he wanted to get her pregnant so she could have a child and they could be sexual with that child,” the document alleges.

The allegations continue: “He told her that he was most interested in children between the ages of 6 to 8. He admitted that he had been in a relationship with a woman in Florida who had a 13-year-old and a 4-year-old child. He admitted that he had sex in front of those children, and fondled the 13-year-old. He would explain that he wanted a ‘sexual family.’ He would ask her to recruit friends for him, and he wanted her to call him ‘daddy.'”

Court documents obtained by PEOPLE allege a woman from Australia told investigators Kohut said in 2003 “that he was searching for a woman who he can impregnate, and will then ‘raise their children sexually.’ He then asked [the woman] if she would let him impregnate and raise their child sexually.”

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“Defendant told her that if he had a daughter, he would want to impregnate her at the age of 10 and raise that child sexually as well. He also admitted to having sexual encounters with other children in the past.”

“Finally, he asked her to find him children. He wanted her to volunteer as a homeless shelter or do babysitting jobs and find children that she would molest and he would then listen to them over the phone,” the document alleges.