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Sex offender is 'person of interest' in Utah homicide

Published April 25, 2013 6:50 am

Crime • Victim, whose body was found Sunday in Uintah County, was shot to death.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Authorities expect to extradite an alleged fugitive sex offender found in Arizona behind the wheel of a car believed stolen from an eastern Utah homicide victim, who also was a registered sex offender.

Uintah County Sheriff Jeff Merrell made the announcement on Wednesday from Phoenix, where he went to question Jesse Anthony Saenz. Saenz was wanted after he allegedly skipped bail in Vernal, where he was awaiting trial for rape.

Saenz, 24, of Uintah County, had posted a $64,000 bond on April 17, four days before Elvis Zachary Olsen, 22, of Roosevelt, was found shot to death Sunday near Fort Duchesne on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation.

On Tuesday, Saenz allegedly was found in Glendale, Ariz., driving the 2011 Mazda 3S sedan belonging to Olsen. Investigators had followed Saenz south, based on information that he had relatives in the area, said Undersheriff John Laursen.

"We're calling him a person of interest [in the homicide] at this point," Laursen said, noting that the homicide investigation was ongoing while extradition of Saenz was implemented. Laursen expects Saenz back in Utah in the next day or two.

But he isn't talking, Laursen said. As far as Laursen was aware, there isn't enough information at this point to charge him, but that's without knowing what's in the Mazda. The car, which is now sealed, will be put on a trailer and brought up to Utah for local investigators to inspect.

Utah investigators are also still following leads in the homicide, though Laursen could not comment on what those are.

Laursen did say that detectives were looking into what connection the two sex offenders — Saenz and Olsen — may have had. Both were believed to be in the Uintah County Jail at the same time, but they did not share a cell, he said.

Saenz had been released after posting bond, on condition he wear an ankle monitor. He was awaiting a July trial on five first-degree felony counts, ranging from aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping and forcible sodomy to object rape and forcible sexual abuse.

According to a court documents, Saenz allegedly followed a woman home on a shuttle bus from a nightclub early the morning of June 10, 2012. Then, once they both got off the bus, he allegedly punched her twice and dragged her across a street to a spot outside an apartment complex, where he raped her and then broke her cell phone.

Vernal police responding to a 911 call found the weeping woman still on the ground. She told police she did not know Saenz, who was apprehended nearby, court documents state.

Saenz also has been charged with first-degree forcible sodomy for a crime that allegedly occurred between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2006 in Uintah County. Court records do not contain additional details about what happened in that case.

On Tuesday, 8th District Judge Clark McCellan — who had granted Saenz bail — issued an arrest warrant after learning the defendant had cut off his ankle monitor device and absconded from his residence. Soon thereafter, the U.S. Marshal's Joint Criminal Apprehension Unit took Saenz into custody.

Olsen's criminal past includes an April 2011 guilty plea to a third-degree felony count of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, a statute that applies to victims who are 14 and 15 years old. Olsen was sentenced to probation and 120 days in jail.

At the time of his death, Olsen was on probation again, having pleaded guilty in December to third-degree felony failure to register as a sex offender.

remims@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims