Four people who police believe were involved in the kidnapping and murder of a man whose body was found frozen beneath snow drifts near a Weber County ski resort made their initial appearances in court Tuesday.
Police believe Cleat Knight, 34, was shot to death in late November near Snowbasin Resort, though his body was not discovered by officials until last week.
West Valley police arrested four people in connection to the man’s death, which was apparently sparked by a drug debt: Christopher Leech, 35; Villiamu Seumanu, 42; Tina Soules, 41; and Theron Myore, 42.
Leech and Seumanu are charged in 3rd District Court with murder and two counts of aggravated kidnapping, all first-degree felonies, as well as one count of obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony. Soules and Myore also face murder and kidnapping counts.
On Tuesday, all four made their initial appearances in court. A scheduling conference was set for Feb. 10.
The alleged crimes began in late November, when Soules drove Andrew Beck to a garage on Mann Way (4100 West) in West Valley City, according to charging documents.
Once at the garage, Leech tied Beck to a chair. Then, he had a conversation with Soules, Seumanu and Myore about how they were going to kill Beck and Knight, an acquaintance of Beck. During the conversation, Myore revealed he was carrying a .40 caliber Beretta, but Soules spoke up against killing Beck.
On Nov. 23, Leech, Seumanu, Myore and Soules loaded Beck into a truck. He was blindfolded and his hands were tied with wire, the charging documents reveal. Knight also was in the back of the truck, bound and blindfolded, though the documents do not say how he got there.
The four suspected killers, along with the captives, Beck and Knight, then set off for Weber County. En route, “Knight pleaded for his life and asked them not to go through with their plans,” the charging documents add.
The group stopped near a gate in Weber Canyon, according to the documents. Beck and Knight walked about 100 yards, at which point Leech allegedly shot Knight in the back. Leech then handed the gun to Beck and ordered him to shoot Knight. If he didn’t, Leech reportedly threatened, he would die, too.
Beck fired. Knight “was left alone where he was shot,” the court documents say.
The documents do not explain how West Valley City detectives cracked the case and located Knight’s snowy grave, though police have said the killing stemmed from a drug debt. There is no evidence of gang involvement, according to police.
Leech, Seumanu, Soules and Myore are all being held at the Salt Lake County jail, each in lieu of $1 million bail.
Knight’s relatives reported his disappearance to South Salt Lake police on Dec. 8. Subsequent investigation indicated Knight had been kidnapped in West Valley City, according to police.