After changing her story three times about the events prior to her fiance’s murder, Morgan Maree Janet Holst has been charged for obstructing the investigation into his death.
Holst, 18, was charged Tuesday in 3rd District Court with obstructing justice. If convicted, she could face up to 15 years in prison.
Besides finally shining a light on what the nature of Holst’s alleged deception was, the charges also publicly indicate for the first time what may have led to the West Valley City man’s death — if her final version of events holds true.
Holst’s fiance, Sione Fakatoufifita, 19, was shot and killed on April 13 in the parking lot of a Maverik convenience store at 1680 S. Redwood Road. Detectives interviewed her later that day, and she told them that on April 12, Fakatoufifita was hanging out with his friends and she’d been driving around looking for him, according to the charges.
Then detectives say she changed her story. She said that she and Fakatoufifita had been driving when he got out and later called her from the Maverick to tell her their wedding was off. She called Fakatoufifita’s mom and the two drove to the convenience store to pick him up, only to find it was a crime scene.
Then her story allegedly changed again. She told the detectives that she and Fakatoufifita had been driving through Glendale to her grandparent’s house when he started throwing up gang signs — specifically, "R" for "Regulator," according to the charges. She eventually told him to get out of the vehicle because he wouldn’t stop signing, and she didn’t know where he went after that.
She stuck by that story in a later interview on April 15. She recounted it again to detectives on April 16, but then admitted that she had lied, according to the charges.
In her final version of events, she said she and Fakatoufifita were at a Glendale park when they were jumped by some "Glendale boys," a reference to rival gang members, according to the charges. A fight broke out and Fakatoufifita fled, with the alleged attackers in pursuit.
At first she told investigators she’d never seen any of the gang members before, but later admitted she had talked with some of them the night of April 13. She knew they were looking for Fakatoufifita to hurt him and saw one of them with a pistol, the charges state.
Police arrested Holst two weeks ago at the airport. She’d been on her way to California to "get control over her emotions and steer clear of the speculation and anger that was surrounding the death of her fiance," according to court documents.
She petitioned to get released from Salt Lake County jail, since no charges were filed against her for about a week after her arrest. She contended that the jail couldn’t hold her that long without charges, and that her $250,000 bail was unreasonably high and based on the false assumption that she’s a flight risk.
Even though investigators said they had no objection to her trip to California and she told them that she would postpone it if they needed her, detectives arrested her at the airport and told the court she was trying to flee jurisdiction, the petition adds.
Third District Judge Denise Lindberg denied Holst’s petition and gave prosecutors through the end of the month to file the charge that is now against her.
Police also have arrested a second person for allegedly lying to them about the case. Vaiola Mataele Tenifa, 30, was booked into jail April 23 on a second-degree felony count of obstruction of justice. He has not been charged.
According to a probable-cause statement, Tenifa initially told investigators that he never left his home the night of the shooting. He changed his story in a third interview on April 23, saying that he did leave his home in his wife’s car and that he drove through the parking lot of the Maverik within minutes of Fakatoufifita being shot, according to jail documents.
"Vaiola stated he lied because he did not want to be involved or associated with this murder," the probable-cause statement reads.
Police are still looking for the killer, who they believe acted alone. Witnesses saw the assailant almost got hit by a car after the shooting as he ran northeast across Redwood Road.
Investigators describe the shooter as a Polynesian man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt over a white T-shirt and dark jeans.
Police continue to ask that anyone with information about the case call them at 801-799-3000.
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