Utah murder suspect sent to prison for unrelated rape
A 23-year-old Vernal man who is charged with murdering a man in April was sentenced Wednesday to a mandatory 25 years to life in prison for raping a woman last year.
Jesse Anthony Saenz had pleaded guilty in 8th District Court to one count of first-degree felony aggravated sexual assault for the attack on the woman. As part of a plea deal, four other felonies and three misdemeanors were dismissed.
Saenz's defense attorney raised a concern that the sentence may not be in line with the plea agreement, which may have called for the statutory minimum of 15 years to life, said Uintah County Attorney Mark Thomas. The defense has 30 days to appeal the sentence.
Saenz had followed a woman home on a shuttle bus from a nightclub early on June 10, 2012, according to the charges. Once they got off the bus, he punched her twice and dragged her across a street to a spot outside an apartment complex, where he raped her and broke her cellphone, charges state.
Responding to a report of a rape in progress, Vernal police officers arrived, chased Saenz down and took the woman to a hospital.
During the sentencing, the woman had a chance to describe the rape and the terror that she felt at the time, Thomas said.
"[She described] the fear that she had that she was not going to survive this," Thomas said. "Had it not been for the intervention of the policeâ¦ she felt that he would have killed her."
In April, Saenz was out on bail on the rape case when he allegedly shot and killed Elvis Zachary Olsen.
Olsen, 22, was found shot to death on April 21 near Fort Duchesne on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. Olsen's Mazda 3S had been stolen.
Saenz who had cut and removed an ankle monitor he was wearing as part of his bail conditions was tracked by Uintah County investigators to Arizona three days later, where he was allegedly found driving Olsen's car.
The Uintah County Sheriff's Office has been unable to establish a motive for the killing of Olsen.
Olsen, who was a convicted sex offender, was believed to have been in the Uintah County jail at the same time as Saenz, but they did not share a cell, according to Undersheriff John Laursen.
In connection with Olsen's death, Saenz is charged with first-degree felony murder, as well as second-degree felony counts of theft and possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges during a Tuesday hearing. A pre-trial hearing in the murder case is set for Sept. 10 before Judge Clark McClellan.