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Midvale man ordered to stand trial for roommate's death

Published April 18, 2012 4:14 pm

Courts • Fight was precipitated over missing music CDs.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

West Jordan • A Midvale man was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on charges that he beat his roommate to death during a fight over missing music CDs.

Christopher John Wiggins, 23, appeared for a preliminary hearing in 3rd District Court on one count of first-degree felony murder in the death of 47-year-old David Brown.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Terry Christiansen found probable cause to advance the case to trial.

The charge stems from an Oct. 15 report of a disturbance at 582 E. Carmel Drive in Midvale. Unified Police Department officer Scott Wilberger testified he arrived that evening to find Wiggins covered in blood. Wiggins told Wilberger the blood was "mostly Dave's."

"Just arrest me now," Wilberger recalled Wiggins saying. Inside the home, the officer found Brown's body at the foot of the stairs.

UPD Detective Robert Scott said Wiggins — not yet knowing Brown had died — told police during a lengthy interview he and Brown had several disputes in the four months they were roommates. Wiggins wanted the house to be cleaner for his daughters' weekend visits. He was angry that Brown worked at an alcoholism treatment program but drank at home. Wiggins claimed Brown, who was gay, tried to kiss him once. And there was a back-and-forth of accusations over stolen property: Brown accused Wiggins of stealing a watch, Wiggins had taken Brown's bank card and code, and Wiggins accused Brown of stealing 50 or 60 music CDs.

The CDs disappeared two days before Brown's death. Scott said Wiggins was furious because he'd pawned most of his other personal belongings. "All he has is this music, and it's gone."

Wiggins had removed a bed post from his bed and told Brown he would "wreck" his face and the apartment — threats Brown had reported to police, Scott said.

"I want to bash in his head and turn his brain to noodles," Scott recalled Wiggins saying.

Wiggins returned to the house the day of homicide to ask for the CDs again, got upset and left again. When he returned, the locks had been changed, Scott said. Wiggins climbed up a ladder to break into his bedroom; inside, he encountered Brown. The two argued until Wiggins threw a plate in Brown's face and the two began fighting, Scott said.

"I'm happy, I'm pumped, I'm ready to teach him a [expletive] lesson," Scott recalled Wiggins saying of the fight. Wiggins told officers he struck Brown once with the rake, but Brown kept coming at him. At some point the handle separated from the rake, and Wiggins used the metal piece to hit Brown several times, Scott said.

At the end of the interview, Scott told Wiggins that Brown had died.

"[Expletive], that's murder," Wiggins said, and began to cry, Scott testified.

Medical examiner Dr. Eric Christensen said he found that Brown technically died because his heart was enlarged — at least 20 percent larger than a man's typical heart. But he said the stress of the assault precipitated Brown's death.

"The injuries would not, in and of themselves, be lethal, but because he has a big, diseased heart that's prone to abnormal rhythms, it's [susceptible] to blood loss and adrenaline," Christensen said. "All of it is contributory. But for his heart condition he probably wouldn't be dead. But for his injuries, he probably wouldn't be dead."

A pretrial conference has been scheduled for April 30 with Judge Charlene Barlow.

ealberty@sltrib.com