CEDAR CITY – A 5th District judge sentenced a Cedar City man to a maximum of 20 years Tuesday for beating his roommate to death in 2013.
Judge Keith Barnes ordered 33-year-old Brandon Thomas Sappington to a consecutive sentence of one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison for manslaughter and zero to five years for assaulting two officers when they tried to arrest him.
Barnes gave no credit for the past three years Sappington has remained in the Iron County Correctional Facility since the incident.
Sappington killed 59-year-old Bryan Mellor at a Cedar City apartment complex Oct. 9, 2013 – almost three years to the date of Tuesday’s sentencing.
Sappington was originally charged with first-degree murder, but under a plea agreement with the Iron County Attorney’s Office, the defendant pleaded guilty in August to one count of manslaughter, a second-degree felony. In addition, he pleaded guilty to an assault by a prisoner, a third-degree felony.
As part of the agreement, the state dismissed an additional count of assault by a prisoner and interference with an arresting officer, a misdemeanor.
While one licensed psychologist deemed Sappington competent to stand trial, two other professionals determined otherwise, forcing the court under Utah law to commit the defendant to the Utah State Hospital for further treatment.
Court proceedings were moved off the docket for nearly a year until Sappington was found to be competent enough to stand trial and transferred back to Iron County.
According to the competency findings filed with the court, Sappington suffered from depression and maniac episodes and at times became paranoid, finding it difficult to function in society.
At the time of the incident, the report states Sappington “became paranoid about students returning to school and moving into the building where he (and Mellor) lived.”
“He said he struggled to understand what was real and what was not, and that some people seemed ‘unreal,’” the hospital report stated. “He wondered at the time if he was ‘sleepwalking or something…It was almost a dream.’”
Sappington admitted to staff that before he was arrested he felt like he was “dying.” While in jail, Sappington told others he was dying, going as far as to cut his wrists after just two hours of being moved from a less secure area within the jail, according to the report.
The state agreed to reduce Sappington’s charges after a forensic psychologist determined that “special mitigation” would apply in the case.
Special mitigation under Utah state code provides a type of legal justification for the actions of the defendant, who at the time of the incident psychologists deem to be operating in a delusional state due to mental illness.
According to the charging documents, witnesses told police they saw Sappington repeatedly kick Mellor’s head into the steel railing of a staircase before “stomping” and “jumping on his head and torso.”
When Mellor was transported to the hospital, authorities said they found “footwear impressions” on the victim’s chest and stomach.
Court documents do not identify a motive for the crime.
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