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Judge mulling evidence in 1986 slaying of woman found in Memory Grove

Published September 28, 2012 6:42 pm

Court • Defendant allegedly enlisted the help of friends to dump body.
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A judge wants to see written arguments before deciding whether to order a trial for a 46-year-old man accused of murdering a woman whose body was dumped near Memory Grove more than a quarter century ago.

Thomas Pennington, now 46, allegedly strangled his girlfriend, 20-year-old Patricia Ramirez in July 1986, then enlisted several people to help get rid of the her, according to evidence presented last month and on Friday during a 3rd District Court preliminary hearing.

A scheduling hearing is set for Oct. 1 before Judge Robin Reese.

Joel Murray testified last month he was at a party on July 8, 1986, when Pennington and two other men asked him for a ride. The group stopped at an apartment complex and asked Murray to pop the trunk, Murray said. He said he felt the car depress as something heavy was placed inside.

Pennington directed Murray to a hill near Memory Grove, Murray said. Murray said he opened the trunk again and glimpsed a wrapped "package" large enough to hold Ramirez,.

Pennington asked Murray if he wanted to see what was inside, Murray testified. Murray said he didn't want to know.

"I got this bad feeling, this weird feeling," he testified. "... I believed it was a human body."

The men carried the package away from the car, returned empty-handed and went with Murray back to the party, Murray said.

There, Pennington said that Ramirez was dead, recalled Terry Cary, who was hosting the party.

Five days later, police found the woman's body on a hill above Memory Grove, near 700 North Bonneville Boulevard.

State medical examiner Dr. Todd Grey testified that the condition of her body indicated she had been dead for about five days. Officers found her shirt open and her bra torn in half; one half of the bra was around her neck, apparently used to strangle her, Grey said.

Pennington is charged with one count of murder in the second degree, a first-degree felony

His attorneys questioned Murray's story, noting it had changed multiple times during police interviews in 1986, 2008, 2010 and 2011.

Murray said he withheld information because he was scared.

Pennington was charged with the slaying last June. In November, he was extradited to Utah from Missouri, where he was serving time in prison.

shunt@sltrib.com