Man accused in fatal stabbing ordered to stand trial
They had come for a good time, to listen to music, hang out, play drinking games. But as the night stretched on, a fight seemed inevitable:
Kaleb Yazzie and Ammon Karr were not getting along, witnesses testified Monday in 3rd District Court. As a half dozen of their friends partied around them, the two men argued, refused to apologize. The more they had to drink, witnesses said, the worse it got.
Eventually, Karr asked Yazzie to leave, and moved to escort him out the front door of his Capitol Hill area home.
What came next was a blur besmirched by blood and screams.
Adam Karr leaped into a fist fight between his brother, Ammon Karr, and Kaleb Yazzie on the front porch of the house, prosecutors said. He pulled a knife he had concealed behind his back, prosecutors said, and stabbed Yazzie until the man could barely walk.
Adam Karr, 27, was ordered Monday to stand trial on charges of first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice in the July 2012 slaying of 22-year-old Yazzie. If convicted, Karr could face life in prison.
Witnesses from the party at the home near Girard Avenue (560 North) and Desoto Street (40 East), most of whom were underage and intoxicated at the time of the stabbing, said Yazzie stumbled off the porch, bent at the waist and clutching his friend Christopher Hernandez for support.
Yazzie collapsed near the base of a tree on the far side of the property. Blood pooled around his body. His breathing became ragged.
"I tried to pull him away from the house, but I saw people coming after me," said Hernandez, who called 911 before walking from the party back to his Midvale home. "I had no clue where I was. I didn't know what to do."
According to witnesses, Adam Karr had threatened to stab Yazzie earlier in the night in defense of his younger brother.
"He looked at [Yazzie] and said, 'This kid don't even know,' " said Jacob French, who lived with the defendant at the time of the stabbing. "He said he was going to shank him, then he got up, pulled out a knife and went upstairs."
Marisa Lee, 18, said she pleaded with Karr to hand over the weapon, a pocket knife with a silver blade and white handle.
"Adam had a knife in his hand and said, 'If he touches my brother, I'll stab him.' That's when I asked him to give me the knife," she said. "He said no."
Karr's defense attorney Richard Mauro pointed to inconsistencies in the witnesses' testimony and questioned the accuracy of their claims given the amount of alcohol and drugs several consumed on the night Yazzie was killed.
Mauro characterized Karr's actions as legal and reasonable under a defense of habitation law passed by the Utah Legislature in the 1980s.
According to the law, a person has the right to defend their home from an intruder by use of lethal force if they perceive the intruder will cause them bodily harm or will commit a crime in their residence.
"If the police were called because Yazzie hit his brother in his house after he was told to leave, Mr. Yazzie would have been charged with a felony," Mauro said. "I think once he's told to leave, remaining in that house is unlawful."
Prosecutor Paul Parker said because the stabbing happened after Yazzie had already been forced out of the residence, it was not a protected act of defense.
"If you have someone intoxicated in your house and you want them to leave, you can't just kill them," he said.
Judge James Blanch did not rule on this characterization after hearing nearly eight hours of testimony Monday.