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Defendant in fatal Utah stabbing sentenced to jail, probation

Published January 7, 2013 4:35 pm

Court • Ammon Karr had pled guilty to obstructing justice, assault; he gets jail, probation.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

For the second time in three months, Cynthia Lansing learned Monday that another defendant implicated in the brutal murder of her son, Kaleb Yazzie, will evade prison.

Clutching the black fabric of a shirt bearing her dead son's name, Lansing leaned on her brother for support as the judge weighed these facts:

Ammon Karr, 21, had gotten into a fistfight with her 22-year-old son at a party in a Capitol Hill area home five months ago. But Ammon Karr did not know his brother, Adam Karr, would jump into the fracas — allegedly wielding a knife. After Yazzie was stabbed numerous times, Ammon Karr panicked, hid his bloodied clothes and lied to police about where he was that night.

And as Yazzie lay dying the night of July 31, Ammon Karr did not call for help or try to save his life.

For this, Lansing begged the court to send Karr to prison. Instead, he will spend 30 more days in jail.

"He helped take my son's life, and he should pay for what he's done," she said after Karr's sentencing hearing. "My family will never be the same."

Karr pleaded guilty in November to second-degree felony obstructing justice, and a count of third-degree felony aggravated assault was dismissed. On Monday, he was sentenced to 195 days in jail in lieu of a possible 15-year prison sentence.

Since he has been in custody since July, he has just 30 days left to serve.

After he is released, Karr will be placed under house arrest for 90 days, followed by 36 months of probation.

Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Paul Parker echoed the sentiments ofdefense attorney David Finlayson, who said Ammon Karr did not intend for anyone to die that night and has no prior violent offenses on his record.

This seemed to satisfy 3rd District Judge James Blanch. But it did little to ease the pain of a grieving mother.

"These boys will get out of here and they'll get to see each other again, they'll get to see their families again," Lansing said, tears streaming down her face. "When I want to see my son, I have to go to a grave."

This is the second time Lansing has left a courtroom believing justice had not been served.

Two months ago, a juvenile court judge sentenced a 17-year-old boy who police allege dragged Yazzie's bleeding body out of the yard and down the road to an alley, where he stomped on Yazzie's head.

The teen, whom The Salt Lake Tribune is not identifying due to his age, could remain in a juvenile facility until he turns 21 but may be paroled earlier depending on his behavior.

"Both of these boys will serve their time and be done with this," said Mark Hedgepeth, Yazzie's uncle. "This was a brutal, brutal murder. And they all deserve to have it follow them forever."

More than 10 members of Yazzie's family packed the courtroom gallery Monday.

They all plan to return March 4 when a two-day preliminary hearing begins for Adam Karr, 27, who is charged with murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice for allegedly stabbing Yazzie several times in the chest with a small folding knife.

Lansing said she thinks about the Karr brothers almost daily. She cringes as she talks of the pain Yazzie must have felt in his last moments. She has wondered if the brothers feel remorse for what they did to her son.

Before Monday's hearing drew to a close, Ammon Karr asked for forgiveness.

He glanced back nervously at those assembled in the gallery. His voice quaked.

"I just want them to know that I am very sorry," he said through sobs. "I froze, and I was terrified. I didn't know what to do. I wish now that I could go back and provide some kind of help for Mr. Yazzie."

As part of Karr's probation, he must complete 200 hours of community service and attend anger-management and drug-therapy sessions.

The judge ordered the probation to be "zero tolerance," meaning any violation will result in Karr being sent to prison to start a one-to-15-year prison term.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: marissa_jae