Jury finds Mcatlin guilty of first-degree murder in stabbing death of St. George woman

Kevin Ray Mcatlin (far right) stands with his attorney Ed Flint while the jury foreman reads the verdict in 5th District Court, St. George, Utah, April 19, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Prosecutor Zachary Weiland told jurors in an impassioned closing argument that the trial of Kevin Ray Mcatlin was “not about manslaughter – this case is about murder.” The jury agreed.

It took jurors about two hours and 15 minutes Friday to find Mcatlin guilty of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Elizabeth Ashley Carter in 5th District Court.

He is scheduled to be sentenced May 22. First-degree murder carries a sentence of 15 years to life.

The “special considerations” that would have reduced the charge to manslaughter were rejected by an “un-unanimous vote,” the jury foreman announced to the court.

The special considerations arose from a recent modification approved by the 2019 Utah Legislature that applies to certain murder cases: House Bill 400, which says that if a defendant is “under the influence of extreme emotional distress that is predominantly caused by the victim’s highly provoking act immediately preceding the defendant’s actions,” that would cause “an objectively reasonable person to be incapable of reflection and restraint.”

The jury had two decisions to make: Whether Mcatlin was guilty of murder, and then if that charge should be reduced to manslaughter if they found those elements present in the case – which they did not.

Judge G. Michael Westfall presided over the five-day trial.

Attorneys and court members await the verdict as the jury returns from deliberating during the murder trial of Kevin Ray Mcatlin, 29, St. George, Utah, April 19, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Mcatlin, 29, stabbed Carter to death June 2 in her apartment on North Bluff Street where she was discovered 11 days later.

In closing arguments, co-prosecutor Mark Barlow with the Washington County Attorney’s Office said that Carter was a mother, a college graduate and a woman who was working to get her life back on track.

Referring to the special considerations instructions, Barlow said the jury must determine if Mcatlin’s actions reflected what a reasonable person would do.

“A reasonable person doesn’t shove them into a wall. If they did they would think, ‘I’ve gone too far. How can I fix this?'” He said that a reasonable person doesn’t walk over and stab someone.

“Find the defendant guilty of murder and reject the special consideration,” Barlow said.

Defense attorney Ed Flint began his closing argument by telling the jury they have been placed in a difficult position in a case where the “facts are horrendous.”

Defense attorney Ed Flint makes a closing argument for his client, Kevin Ray Mcatlin, St. George, Utah, April 19, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Flint said that special circumstances did exist and reminded the jury that Mcatlin did confess to the crime, and denied having a mental defect or being too high to know what he was doing or that he was afraid of Carter. His testimony on the stand Thursday was accurate, as were his admissions made during the first confession that was recorded by detectives during the transport to Washington County.

“He was so anxious to confess. He felt so horrible,” Flint said.

Co-prosecutor Zachary Weiland gave the rebuttal argument to the jury, asking, “What type of society would this be if a single slap was justification for manslaughter?”

He reminded the jury that Mcatlin knowingly killed Carter. “He placed her in a tub and covered her. He didn’t want to look at her and then he just left her there.”

Weiland became choked up when he said that Carter had hopes and dreams, and “has a child that will never be with her mother.”

Prosecutor Zachary Weiland gives an emotional closing closing argument in 5th District Court during the murder trial of Kevin Ray Mcatlin, St. George, Utah, April 19, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

After the verdict, Flint said his client took the stand and told the truth, even at his own peril, because “Kevin wanted to give the family some closure and tell them what happened that day.”

Barlow said that having the special circumstances issue come up after closing arguments presented challenges for the state that were difficult to overcome, but even so the jury made the right decision in finding Mcatlin guilty of murder.

“Part of what we do is that we want the community to know that this type of behavior will not be tolerated, and it’s our job to fight for the victim’s family.”

St. George Police Lt. Rich Triplett was involved in the case from beginning when Carter’s body was discovered June 13, 2018. He was in Carter’s apartment that night when he was confronted with a scene that was unthinkable.

He said that even though the jury only sees a small portion of what that scene was like, “They got it right.”

Triplett added that every detective on the case worked tirelessly to find out who did this to Carter. “Like I said, those first three days of the investigation were like one long day.”

They invest in cases like Carter’s because “that should have never happened to her, she didn’t deserve that.”

Weiland commended the efforts of the investigators on the case, saying they conducted a “professional, thorough investigation.”

Weiland added that Flint did “what he had to do to defend his client under difficult circumstances,” but that in the end it was the right verdict.

He said that he has children and feels for both families, because in some ways there were “two lives lost,” one to death and the other to prison.

The emotion displayed by Weiland in his closing arguments is what fuels his efforts, he said, and “getting justice for the family – not a murder conviction, but justice.”

Carter’s mother, Sandra Carter, said the last time she saw her daughter was at her home the weekend before she was killed. “She came to pull weeds in my yard. She worked all day.”

She said she wants her daughter to be remembered as the bright, witty and compassionate woman that she was, and said Elizabeth was a mother who loved her child. She also said her daughter was going through a rough time when this happened, but that she “was working her way out of it and taking the steps to better her life.”


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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.


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