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Utah man to stand trial on murder charge in skateboarder’s fatal shooting

First Published      Last Updated Oct 13 2016 07:04 pm

Courts » Police found inconsistency in his account of incident.

A Utah man will stand trial on a murder charge in the fatal shooting of a skateboarder on a West Valley City street, a judge ruled Thursday.

Aaron Jay Pierce, 24, of Salt Lake City, is slated to be arraigned on Nov. 14. He is charged with murder, a first-degree felony, in the May 28 death of 30-year-old Maluolefale Toala on a West Valley City street and faces up to life in prison if convicted.

Third District Judge James Blanch made the decision to bind over the case for trial at the conclusion of a two-day hearing that took place Tuesday and Thursday.




At the hearing, West Valley City Detective Andy Halulic testified that Pierce was inconsistent in his account of the May 28 shooting, at first saying Toala was swinging the longboard and then saying he never actually swung it. Then Pierce said the longboard was cocked back when he shot Toala, Halulic said.

Pierce was a passenger in a pickup that passed Toala, who was on a longboard on 5600 West near 3500 South when the confrontation occurred, according to court documents. The driver, Pierce's brother, made a loud "yelping" sound that apparently startled Toala, according to Pierce's account of the shooting, Halulic said.

Pierce told police that Toala caught up with the brothers at a red light, smacked his hand on a trailer the pickup was towing and said, "F--- you, punks," Halulic said. He testified that Pierce — who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon — said he got out of the truck, pointed his handgun at Toala and ordered him to get on the ground.

Toala did not get down, and Pierce fired when the skateboarder turned toward him, according to Pierce's account, Halulic said.

Another witness, Eldora McPhie, who was waiting at the red light in the next lane in her car with her 10-year-old daughter, testified Tuesday that she heard a thump and saw the skateboarder exchanging words with Pierce. She could tell the two were yelling, McPhie said, but she could not make out the words because her windows were rolled up and her radio was on.

Then Pierce got out of the pickup and she saw him holding a gun close to the skateboarder's chest.

"There was not very much room between the two at all," McPhie said.

The traffic signal changed and she pulled away, said McPhie, who testified that she did not see the shooting.

Also taking the stand was Erik Christensen, Utah's chief medical examiner, who said Toala died from a gunshot wound the chest. He said Toala had methamphetamine and THC, the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, in his blood.

pmanson@sltrib.com

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC

 

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