ST. GEORGE – A Bloomington man pleaded not guilty to charges connected to a 2010 double-murder Monday.
Brandon Perry Smith, 33, appeared in 5th District Court and pleaded not guilty to felony charges of first-degree aggravated assault and third-degree aggravated assault connected to the murder of 20-year-old Jerrica Christensen. Christensen was one of two women killed in an incident that took place in St. George on Dec. 11, 2010.
In order to move the process along, 5th District Judge G. Michael Westfall asked the defense and state for a target date for a jury trial.
First, however, Gary Pendleton, Smith’s attorney, said he had filed a motion to suppress evidence and requested a suppression hearing before the trial.
The motion to suppress evidence was filed last week and seeks to suppress statements made by Smith to officers during his questioning at the police station the date of the double-murder.
“This motion is made on the grounds that said statements were obtained without complying with the mandate of Miranda (rights) … and in violation of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the Constitution,” Pendleton wrote in the motion.
The motion alleges Smith was not adequately made aware of this right to have an attorney present while being questioned.
“He was never asked (by police) if he understood his rights, he never stated that he understood his rights, and totality of the circumstances does not establish that he possessed the requisite level of comprehension to knowingly and intelligently waive his rights,” Pendleton wrote in the motion.
In addition to the latest motion, Pendleton told the court he is working on three other motions to be filed in the near future.
A suppression hearing was tentatively set for May 15.
The defense also requested a two-week jury trial, though Westfall said the requested time may be hard to find on his calendar before summer. A date for the jury trial was left open for the time being.
If Smith is found guilty of aggravated murder, he could face the death penalty, which is being pushed by the prosecution. Pendleton filed a motion that was argued in January asking the judge to quash elements of the case that allowed for the death penalty. Westfall subsequently denied the motion.
Smith’s case stems from the Dec. 11, 2010, slayings of Christensen and 27-year-old Brandie Jerden and the attempted murder of James Fiske. The victims were at the home of Paul Ashton, helping Jerden and her boyfriend move out, when the incident occurred.
Ashton, who had been cooperating with police as an informant, feared he had been exposed and asked Smith to supply him with a gun for self-defense. Smith went to Ashton’s home and allegedly supplied him with a gun. An argument started between Jerden and Ashton that resulted in Ashton shooting Jerden and Fiske. Jerden was killed and Fiske was wounded but managed to get away and call police.
Christensen had locked herself in the back of the home and was found by Smith. He is accused of beating the woman with a blunt object, strangling her and slitting her throat in a alleged attempt to keep her from testifying in court.
Asthon pleaded guilty to Jerden’s murder and the attempted murder of Fiske in September 2013 and is currently serving a life sentence in prison.
The defense has argued that Smith was manipulated by Ashton into killing Christensen, the state argues otherwise.
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- Ashton sentenced to life in prison for 2010 murder
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