Suspect’s plea in 2010 murder case delayed

ST. GEORGE – An arraignment hearing was held Wednesday morning in Fifth District Court for Brandon Perry Smith, 32, of St. George, who stands accused of killing a Leeds woman in a December 2010 murder case. Anticipated to enter a plea, a motion was filed to delay the plea until the defense had an opportunity to review transcripts from the case’s preliminary hearing – transcripts which have yet to be delivered. Smith has been charged with first-degree felony aggravated murder, a charge that could result in the death penalty should he be found guilty.

double homicide st. george utah
Brandon Perry Smith, December 2010 | Photo courtesy St. George Police Department

The charge stems from the December 2010 murders of Jerrica Christensen, 20 of Leeds, and Brandie Jerden, 27, of St. George, as well as the attempted murder of James Fiske. Smith’s co-defendant, Paul Clifford Ashton, 34, of St. George, was sentenced to life in prison in September for slaying Jerden and attempting to kill Fiske. Smith is accused of killing Christensen.

The incident occurred in the early hours of Dec. 11, 2010. Jerden and her boyfriend had been staying at Ashton’s home in St. George and were then in the process of moving out. Christensen and Fiske were aiding Jerden with the move. An argument and fight occurred between Ashton and Jerden that resulted in the woman and Fiske being shot. Jerden was killed and Fiske was wounded, though managed to escape the scene and contact friends who then contacted the police. Ashton pleaded guilty to killing Jerden and wounding Fiske in July.

Smith is accused of beating and stabbing Christensen to prevent her being a potential witness to the shooting.

Smith’s case went through a three-day preliminary hearing in early October. At its conclusion the judge found the state had enough evidence to move forward to trial. As transcripts from the preliminary hearing have yet to be received and reviewed by the defense, Smith’s attorney, Gary Pendleton, filed a “motion to quash.” The motion would allow Smith to delay entering a plea so his lawyers have time to advise him based on whatever information may be gained after reviewing the transcripts.

Judge James Shumate approved the motion and scheduled a review hearing for Dec. 18.

Though a plea has not yet been entered, the arraignment marks a point in the court process in which the Washington County Attorney’s Office has a period of 60 days to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Smith, should it choose to take that direction. Deputy County Attorney Brian Filter confirmed the option is “on the table,” though he was unable to comment any further on the matter.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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