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Judge assigns St. George double-slaying suspect a defense team

Published December 14, 2010 6:37 pm

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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

St. George • One of two men charged in the shooting deaths of two women and wounding a man in a St. George townhouse was assigned a defense team Tuesday.

Fifth District Judge James Shumate assigned Aric Cramer to represent Paul Clifford Ashton.

Ashton and Brandon Perry Smith were arrested Sunday shortly after Jerrica Christensen, 20, and Brandie Sue Dawn Jerden, 27, were found shot to death. James Fiske, 28, was wounded in the shooting and was treated and released at a hospital.

Police have not specified a motive for the shootings.

Smith, 29, and Ashton, 31, are charged with aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder. They could face the death penalty.

Smith has hired St. George defense attorney Gary Pendleton to represent him.

Ashton will also be represented by Douglas Terry, assigned by Shumate as co-counsel. Both lawyers are qualified to try capital murder cases.

The judge also approved a request by Ashton's attorneys for money for a private investigator, but held off on approving funds for a mitigation expert until the Washington County Attorney's Office has had a chance to study the motion. Terry said a mitigation expert would be used during the sentencing phase of the case to determine if there are extenuating circumstances in Ashton's life that should be taken into consideration and perhaps lessen the severity of his sentence.

Cramer said prosecutors have 60 days after an arraignment to determine if they will seek the death penalty.

mhavnes@sltrib.com