Man arrested in stabbing of Salt Lake City defense attorney
A 28-year-old Salt Lake City man was booked into jail Thursday on suspicion of attempted murder for allegedly stabbing and wounding a prominent defense attorney at the victim's home Thursday morning.
Steven B. Killpack, 63 a former federal public defender who is now in private practice was initially in critical condition at a hospital, but by noon was upgraded, a police department spokesperson said.
The suspect, Matthew Christopher Wall, told police he was invited into Killpack's home, at the corner of 1200 East and 200 South, by a male unknown to him who had been sleeping on the balcony, according to a probable cause statement filed with the Salt Lake County jail.
Wall said "the old man" was mad at him because Wall had "messed with his pantings (sic)."
He said "the old man" had tried to cut Wall's neck with a large knife and a small knife, and Wall said he fought with "the old man," the jail statement said.
Wall would not tell police how Killpack was injured, according to the statement, but did say the knives were still inside the home. Police have not yet released further information, including whether they've been able to speak with Killpack.
"This is what Wall says happened ... that's not necessarily [what occurred]," said Salt Lake City Police Detective Dennis McGowan. Though he said investigators have spoken with Killpack, McGowan declined to say what the injured man may have told them.
"There are lots and lots and lots of witnesses, and lots and lots of interested parties, and their accounts do diverge," he said.
The statement said dispatchers were notified at about 8:20 a.m. that Killpack had been stabbed numerous times in the chest. That call presumably came from a neighbor who lives near 200 S. Douglas Street (1240 East), where Killpack collapsed after knocking on doors seeking help.
A trail of Killpack's blood led from his home through an alley toward Douglas Street. He knocked on the door of the house directly east of his, then walked two houses south and collapsed onto a front yard at 212 S. Douglas Street.
There, owners of the home, along with another neighbor, Cynthia Grua, aided Killpack. Grua said Killpack was covered in blood and at first she didn't recognize him.
Soon after, a witness told police at the scene that a man covered with blood was walking west on 200 South. Wall was detained for questioning and later arrested.
A search of court records shows Wall has a history of drug possession, theft and break-ins.
In December 2010, Wall attempted to break into an enclosed back porch at a home one block south of Killpack's, according to court documents. Police later found $20,000 worth of stolen baseball cards and sports memorabilia along with syringes and spoons with burn marks on them at Wall's home.
He was sentenced to a year in jail for the crimes, but was facing a possible prison sentence after being convicted earlier this year on new retail theft charges, court documents show.
Killpack was one of Brian David Mitchell's attorneys in his federal kidnapping and sexual assault case. Mitchell in 2002 kidnapped Elizabeth Smart from her home in Salt Lake City. A federal jury convicted Mitchell of kidnapping and other crimes in 2010.
Killpack was the Utah County Attorney from 1986 to 1990, and then headed the Utah County Public Defender's Association before being named to lead the Utah Federal Public Defender's Office, which was established in 1999. He left the office in 2011 to return to private practice.
"Steve Killpack devoted his career to working for the indigent," said Kathy Nester, federal public defender for Utah. "He was one of the original players in establishing the federal mental court here. We are praying for his speedy recovery."
"We're saddened to hear of this violent, senseless act towards a good attorney, a good person," said Mark Jones, court clerk for the U.S. District Court for Utah. "Our thoughts and prayers go out with him and his family. Hopefully he'll recovery quickly and be able to return to his work. We're stunned by it just like everyone else and wish him nothing but a speedy recovery and that those responsible will be brought to justice."
Tribune reporters Brooke Adams and Aaron Falk contributed to this story.