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Prosecutors will seek death penalty against St. George murder suspect

First Published      Last Updated Feb 17 2016 05:28 pm

Prosecutors have declared they intend to seek the death penalty against a St. George man accused of murdering a woman to keep her from testifying after a fatal 2010 shooting.

Brandon Perry Smith, 32, is charged in 5th District Court with aggravated murder and aggravated assault in the stabbing death of 20-year-old Jerrica Christensen.

Last week, Deputy Washington County Attorney Brian Filter filed notice that they will seek the death penalty against Smith, who is accused of killing Christensen to silence her just after his friend, Paul Clifford Ashton, shot and killed Brandie Sue Dawn Jerden, 27, and shot and wounded James Fiske.

During Smith's October preliminary hearing, Fiske testified that at about 3 a.m. on Dec. 11, 2010, he was at an apartment, located at 575 S. Main Street, with the two women, Smith and Ashton. At some point he saw Jerden "smack" Ashton.

Fiske testified that he saw Smith pull out a gun. Fiske said he heard a shot, then he stumbled out of the apartment, bleeding from a gunshot wound.

Though Fiske testified that he thought it was Smith who shot him, prosecutors believe Ashton fired the gun. During Fiske's testimony, defense attorneys pointed out that Ashton had already pleaded guilty to fatally shooting Jerden. The Spectrum of St. George reported that in an interrogation tape played in court, Smith told a police detective that he drew his own gun when Ashton pulled his gun and shot Jerden.

Smith also told police that he used a "small pipe" to beat Christensen before cutting her throat, The Spectrum reported.

In September, Ashton, 34, was sentenced to two life terms in federal prison — one for Jerden's death, and the other for kidnapping and aiding in the murder of Bradley Eitner on Oct. 31, 2010. In that case, Ashton admitted to putting Eitner, 43, in his pickup truck after he had passed out, then assaulted the man before driving into Arizona, where an accomplice purportedlyshot and killed Eitner.

Twitter: @jm_miller